You can find shark teeth on almost any beach in the world, but few offer as many of these fossilized treasures as Venice Beach, Florida.
Hunting for shark teeth is a popular pastime that combines the thrill of a treasure hunt with the delights of the coast.
People search for fossilized shark teeth all along the east coast, from Virginia to Florida.
What is the Shark Tooth Capital of the World?
Venice, Florida is the shark tooth capital of the world. It’s thought to have more sharks’ teeth hidden amongst the sand and shells than any other beach in the world.
Given that there are more shark attacks in Florida than anywhere else in the world, it’s perhaps not surprising that this is where you’ll find the shark’s tooth capital.
Sharks don’t lose their teeth every time they attack, however, and most of the teeth found along Venice Beach date back thousands, if not millions of years.
Why are there so many shark teeth in Venice Beach?
Sharks can have hundreds of teeth in their mouths at any one time and, during their lifetime, may work their way through as many as 50,000!
Sharks’ teeth aren’t embedded into the jaw bone like human teeth but attached to the gums by connective tissue. This makes them a lot less secure than a human’s teeth, which is why they fall out with such regularity.
It’s not too much of a problem for the shark, as they have a conveyor belt of new teeth readily available to replace those they lose.
As the frequency of shark attacks suggests, sharks enjoy the warm waters off the coast of Florida just as much as their human residents and visitors. As a result, they have spent millions of years exploring the coastline and gobbling up unsuspecting victims.
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Sharks have been around for roughly 400 million years. There are currently an estimated one billion swimming in our oceans. So, we’ve had billions of sharks losing thousands of teeth for millions of years. Of course, that amounts to a lot of teeth, but what are they all doing on Venice Beach?
Florida’s geography and geology both play important roles in the distribution and preservation of prehistoric shark teeth.
Millions of years ago, Florida was underwater when megalodon’s still ruled our seas. It languished there as part of the ocean floor until about 530 million years ago when volcanic activity and marine sedimentation started to form the land and coastline we know today.
The sandy beaches we know and love were deposited “over millions of years as global sea levels rose and fell.” As each layer was deposited, it captured and preserved the remains of ancient creatures, including the shark.
As sharks have only cartilage in their bodies instead of bones, the part of them that survives is their teeth. These fossilize through a process known as permineralization. For this process to occur, the teeth “sink the seafloor and be quickly covered by sediment.”
If the tooth isn’t buried quickly, it will suffer the consequences of “weathering, abrasion, and scavenging.” Being buried also prevents decomposition, which occurs when the teeth are exposed to bacteria and oxygen.
Florida’s natural topography makes it the perfect place for fossilizing shark teeth. Quickly covered by the sandy sea floor, the tooth is gently soaked in water and its minerals. As these minerals find their way into the “open pore spaces in the teeth,” they start to impregnate and protect those teeth.
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The black teeth most commonly found on Caspersen Beach and other Florida shark teeth hotspots are that color because they’ve been buried in and permineralized by phosphate-rich sediments.
Wave action and beach renourishment projects also have a role to play in making Venice the shark tooth capital of the world. Both these disturb the sediment at the bottom of the ocean, bringing new sand, debris, and fossilized shark’s teeth to light as they do so.
What Types of Shark Teeth can you find in Venice Florida?
Most people searching for shark teeth between Venice fishing pier and Caspersen beach will find a handful of small shark teeth measuring between 1/8″ to 3/4.″
Some of these are the thin, needle-like teeth of the sand tiger and mako sharks, while others are more triangular and probably belong to either lemon or tiger sharks.
All these shark species are still found off the coast of Venice, but the dark colors of the teeth indicate that these came from prehistoric sharks and have been waiting, buried for millions of years.
Venice Beach is also famous for its megalodon teeth, which are more commonly found by divers hunting in deeper waters.
Being larger and heavier, megalodon teeth don’t wash ashore as easily as smaller, lighter teeth but are occasionally found on the beach. Most megalodon teeth measure between 3″ and 5″, although the biggest one ever found measured a whopping 7 1/4″!
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You can be sure that if you do get lucky enough to find a megalodon tooth, you won’t accidentally mistake it for anything else!
Despite its fierce reputation, the great white shark has small teeth compared to the colossal megalodon. Measuring around 1.5-2.5-inch long, they are triangular, with deadly serrations running along their edges.
The teeth of bull sharks look similar to those of the great white but are considerably smaller, rarely exceeding one inch in length.
Aside from these more common species, you may also find shark teeth from the dusky and copper sharks hidden along the Florida coast.
How Easy is it to Find Shark Teeth in Venice Beach?
There are so many shark teeth on the best beaches that you don’t really have to look for them.
You could quite easily stumble across a few fossilized teeth while taking a stroll on Venice Beach. But, head to Caspersen Beach, and your chances are even higher.
Of course, if you’re serious about shark teeth hunting, there are ways to improve your chances.
Knowing what you’re looking for and when and where to look will give you a much better chance of going home with a few fossilized teeth in your pocket!
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Tips for Shark Tooth Hunting in Venice Beach Florida
#1 Where To Look?
You can find shark teeth almost anywhere on Venice Beach, but the beach access points south of the jetty are considered the best places to get started.
Venice Fishing Pier at Brohard Park is famous for its collections of fossilized shark’s teeth, although you can also find a fair amount at Manasota Key and Casey Key. You shouldn’t overlook Caspersen Beach either.
Once you’ve picked your location, head down the beach to the water’s edge and look for places where piles of shells, gravel, and sand have formed.
Sift through these piles, keeping an eye out for anything black and triangular. You could improve your chances even more by using a kitchen sieve or Florida snow shovel to sift through these piles more effectively.
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#2 When To Look?
The best time to hunt for shark’s teeth is at low tide when more sand is exposed.
Just after a storm or following beach renourishment is also ideal as these actions bring new layers of sediment to the surface.
Ideally, you want to get to the beach before anyone else to increase your chances of being the first to make the discovery. Early mornings are favored by Sarasota county residents who pride themselves on their shark teeth hunting skills.
#3 What To Look For?
Keep the image of a shark’s tooth in your mind as you search, focussing on anything black and triangular. Don’t discard anything, even if it looks like it’s only a fragment of a tooth.
Some shark species have very narrow, needle-like teeth that may look incomplete but could turn out to be lucky talismans.
You can improve your chances further by taking along a shark tooth identification guide, which you can find at many of the local seaside stores.
The more you know about shark teeth and what they look like, the better your chances of discovering one.
Venice Beach Tooth Festival
If there was ever a place to learn more about shark’s teeth, it would be at the Venice Beach Tooth Festival.
This event takes place each year and sees thousands of people flock to the Florida coast to enjoy a few days of fossils, food, and Sarasota hospitality.
Traditionally held in April each year, the festival celebrates the latest finds of avid collectors and shark tooth hunters across the southeast. The teeth are displayed in large tents, alongside the creations of local artists.
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It’s a great place to learn about sharks and their teeth and even secure a giant megalodon tooth or a genuine shark tooth necklace for yourself.
A family-friendly affair, the festival is a fun and inexpensive experience that offers free parking, children’s activities, entertainment, and more toothy grins than you can shake a stick at!
Venice Beach is the undisputed shark tooth capital of the world. More shark teeth are found along this stretch of coastline than almost anywhere else in the world.
With a healthy shark population out to sea and the perfect geographical conditions to preserve and fossilize their discarded teeth, Florida has the best beaches for finding shark teeth and other fossils.
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Whether you decide to join in the fun at the Venice Beach Tooth Festival or prefer the more solitary experience of searching for teeth along Caspersen Beach, it won’t take long before you’re completely hooked.
Finding a shark’s tooth is like holding a piece of history in your hand, and the best place to do that is an area as steeped in natural history as Florida.
Nicky is a British adventurer and animal lover who spends her time exploring the natural world and writing about her experiences. Whether on horseback, underwater, running, hiking or just standing with a fishing rod in hand, she embraces everything her adopted home of South Africa has to offer.