This Authentic Florida article was originally published with Visit Sarasota
Enjoy the Thrill of Finding Shark Teeth
Enjoy the thrill of discovering shark teeth on Florida’s Gulf Coast Venice Beach, known as the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World,” where millions of years ago the area was teeming with sharks
It’s a picture perfect morning on Southwest Florida’s Venice beach, as the cloudless royal blue sky meets the far off horizon. The emerald-green Gulf of Mexico gently laps onto the sandy shoreline, and a few barefooted beachcombers are off in the distance.
Family looking for shark teeth
A young boy, along with his mother and father, are stooped over searching for something on the beach. They appear to be looking for something amongst the shells and sand. The little boy is holding a long-handled tool that resembles a snow shovel with a wire mesh basket attached to the end. With his dad’s help the boy heartily scoops sand and shells from the water’s edge letting the water and sand drain from the sieved basket.
Young boy finds shark teeth treasures
The boy inspects the catch, sifting through the shells. He shrieks, “I found one!” as he proudly bounces up and down holding within the palm of his tiny hand – a small black sharks tooth.
Florida’s Gulf Coast Venice Beach Pier
This scene plays out daily on Florida’s Venice beach, the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World” located in Sarasota County.
The Gulf beaches in and around Venice, hold a bountiful cache of fossilized sharks teeth. Ten million years ago, when Florida was submerged under water, the area was teeming with sharks.
Shark exhibit, courtesy Florida Museum of Natural History
Over time, as the water receded giving way to land, the prehistoric sharks died, their skeletons disintegrated, but their fossilized teeth remained. The Venice coastal area, just south of Sarasota sits on top of a fossil layer that runs 18-35 feet deep. With storms and waves, the fossils are slowly driven into the shallow waters and then up onto the beach.
Kitty Sala hunts for shark teeth
Back on the beach, a little further down, Kitty Sala, a new Floridian from New York who moved to the area over a year ago, is wading waist-deep in the water inspecting her newly scooped catch. Already a veteran sharks teeth hunter, Kitty spends most of her week strolling along the beach hunting for the fossilized treasures.
She is bubbly and eager to share some tips about her new hobby. “Sharks teeth come in differing sizes, colors and shapes,” she beams. “Some are black, others gray or brown. Early mornings are best and weekdays are ideal, because there are fewer people. The best time to collect teeth is often after a storm. But it’s different with every storm, because it can bring a lot of teeth or it may carry them further out. You never know.”
Kitty keeps her stash of fossils in a little pill bottle she carries. “I have found over 10,000 teeth,” she proudly exclaims.
Venice “snow” shovel for finding sharks teeth and shells
Most people who look for shark teeth simply stroll along the beach scanning the sand for the shiny black teeth. Others, seeking faster results, walk to the water’s edge where the waves break and there is a foot-high drop off ledge. They reach down to the edge of the drop off or even wade out a few feet into the water to scoop up sand and shells.
Shells and teeth accumulate onto the beach
Some use a shovel, a kitchen strainer or just scoop the sand and shells with their hands. Once scooped, they bring it back to the beach and pour it onto the sand. Then they sit on the beach and sift through looking for their prizes. Other fossil parts, bits of coral, interesting shells or small pebbles may catch the eye, but it is likely that at least one or more teeth will be found in most large scoops.
Most sharks teeth are from 1/8″ to 3/4″
Most sharks teeth are from 1/8” to ¾” or even a bit larger. The really large sharks teeth are usually out farther out and may require dive equipment to locate. Local Venice dive boats will take you out as they cruise a few miles from the shore. In fact, several boat captains charter trips along the Venice coastline in search of prehistoric fossils and sharks teeth. Call any local Venice Dive Shop, and they will recommend captains specializing in fossils.
More Nearby Places to Look for Shark Teeth
Sharks teeth collectors say the best places to look for the fossils are any beach accesses south of the Venice Jetty including Caspersen Beach, Casey Key and Manasota Key.
The Venice Pier
Papa’s Bait & Snack Shop, The Venice Pier
The Venice Pier is right in the heart of shark’s tooth country and an ideal place to begin your journey, especially if you are new to the area. Before you start searching the sands take a walk out on the scenic 740-foot pier and stop at Papa’s Bait Shop. There you can rent or buy the “Venice Snow Shovel,” the screened basket fitted onto a handle to help you dig shark’s teeth. And after a day of fossil hunting, you might want to celebrate your bounty at Sharkey’s on the Pier or the fancier new Fins restaurant, both with a spectacular Gulf view where you can enjoy a well deserved and delicious fish sandwich and a beverage to toast the sunset.
Get a book, or a Guide
Before you know it, you’ll have a collection of shark teeth and begin wondering why they are so different – in shape, color and size. With a handy guide found at local bookstores, (Hunting Fossil Shark Teeth in Venice Florida by Robert Fuqua) pictures will assist you with shark species teeth identification. There are sand, lemon, mako, bull, whitetip, megladons just to name the common ones. Some are pointier or fatter, or even sharper at the ends. You’ll have fun just looking at the variety.
Things you will need
Hat, sunscreen, small baggie or container for your shark’s teeth. (Optional) Kitchen sifter, or the Venice “snow” shovel, basket (buy at the pier or Ace Hardware)
Larger shark teeth found during scuba diving trips off the coast of Venice
Shark Tooth Facts
Sharks produce 20,000-25,000 teeth over their lifetime
Shark’s teeth sizes can range from 1/8” – 3.5”or more
The mighty Megladon shark tooth fact: 1” of the tooth represents 10 feet of the actual length of the prehistoric shark
More Florida locations for finding shark teeth (recommended by Authentic Florida readers):
Many Florida rivers contain a treasure trove of fossils and shark teeth. The Peace River (flows into Charlotte Harbor) and the Alafia River are very popular with collectors. Also, abandoned Florida phosphate pits are known to be excellent sources for finding these prehistoric treasures.
Authentic Florida story: Fossil Adventure on the Peace River
Other locations are Egmont Key (St. Petersburg area), Juno Beach on the east coast, and in north Florida, try Jacksonville Beach, Vilano Beach, Little Talbot Island and Fernandina Beach.
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