Where can you find fossilized shark teeth the size of your hand and a Mammoth tooth as big as a shoe box?
While Fossil Collecting in Florida of Course!
Millions of years ago, when T-Rex and Triceratops were roaming the earth, most of Florida was covered by ocean. Back then, sharks patrolling the waters were just like modern ones, losing thousands of teeth in their lifetime. So when the largest carnivorous shark that ever lived, the Megalodon and giant Makos were chomping down on their prey, they were also dropping teeth to the ocean floor. There the teeth were covered with sand and fossilized over millions of years.
After the mega dinosaurs went extinct the oceans began receding, exposing the Florida peninsula. Giant sloths, saber tooth cats, camel, rhinoceros began roaming the new lands. They roamed the swamps and plains, sometimes falling into sinkholes and water bodies, where their bones and teeth were quickly covered up by mud, turning into rock over time.
Now, fast forward to today, you have creeks, rivers, and breaking waves eroding all the ancient sediments and topsoil, exposing what was deposited on the ancient ocean floor and plains millions of years ago. So yes, you can find shark’s teeth in the center of the state along with all the other cool animal fossils!
WHAT CAN YOU FIND WHEN FOSSIL COLLECTING IN FLORIDA?
- Megalodon, Mackerel, Mako, and other shark teeth!
- Whale vertebrae and teeth!
- Giant Ground Sloth teeth and bones!
- Mastodon and Mammoth teeth, bones, and tusks!
- Saber Tooth Cat teeth and bones!
- Alligator and Camel teeth!
- Coprolites of all kinds (fossilized poop)!
WANT A SUCCESSFUL EXPERIENCE WHEN COLLECTING FOSSILS IN FLORIDA? WALK ON A BEACH (shark teeth found walking on the beach are typically smaller in size than ones found wading in streams/rivers or scuba diving offshore)
- WHO: toddlers, kids, adults, seniors
- WHERE: THE BEST BEACHES IN THE STATE for collecting are on the west coast at Venice Beach and just to the south on Manasota Key. On the east coast some finds occur on Jacksonville Beach and beaches directly north.
- BRING: hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, bathing suit, snacks/drinks, and a separate container for the sharp sharks teeth – they may poke you if you put them in your pocket
- TIP: Stop by a local gift shop in Venice Beach to purchase a “Florida shovel” (photo above) to sift teeth from the sand. Plan your trip at low tide or head to the beach following a storm to find more and bigger sharks teeth!
EASY TO MODERATE
ANOTHER GREAT TECHNIQUE WHEN FOSSIL COLLECTING IN FLORIDA IS TO GO KAYAKING & WADING IN SHALLOW WATERS
- WHO: people of any age that can sit in a kayak and wade in a shallow river or stream with a slow current
- WHERE: Peace River, near Arcadia, is the most popular river in the state for family-friendly fossil collecting. Other rivers and creeks in central and north Florida are family-friendly as well – check our fossil guide map.
- BRING: any type of water shoe suitable for walking on the river bottom, bathing suit, hat, sunscreen, bug repellant, small cooler with lunch and drinks, change of clothes for your ride home, gallon zip lock bags for your cell phone – wallet and exciting fossil finds.
- TIP: Hire a guide – they know the local waters, wildlife-safe locations, will teach you where to look, and how to identify your finds!
LOOKING FOR A MORE CHALLENGING ADVENTURE WHILE COLLECTING FOSSILS IN FLORIDA? SCUBA DIVING
- WHO: anyone open water SCUBA certified
- WHERE: Venice Beach/Manasota Key in shallow gulf waters just offshore
- BRING: Your comfortable wetsuit and mask/snorkel – most dive guides include the scuba gear with the price of the dive, cooler with lunch and drinks, mesh bags to put your big teeth in, bathing suit, towels, and change of clothes for the drive back home.
- TIP: Hire a guide – they’ll drop you in right over top the hot spots and teach you how to identify your finds!
- Florida law requires a $5 annual Fossil Collecting Permit if you collect vertebrate fossils; however, collecting sharks teeth and shells does not require a permit. If you go collecting with a guide they typically have you covered with a “group” collecting permit.
- Florida law states that artifacts are state property and cannot be removed from Florida waters – these include Native American tools and arrowheads as well as any human-altered object older than 50 years old.
- Do not disturb any vegetation or wildlife while collecting and be aware of your wild surroundings.
Gear & Books On Amazon For Your Trip:
Check out all of the fossil guides across the state and start thinking about that rocking shark’s tooth necklace you are going to make! Catch the fossil fever!
Special thanks to Mark Renz, one of the best guides in Florida, for providing photos of his happy clients. Mark is the owner of Fossil Expeditions in the Peace River area and author of many Florida fossil books!
Short Video On How To Build A Sifter
And thanks to Gaptain for his instructional video – be sure to follow his metal-detecting treasure hunts on his YouTube channel! (Video embedded per YT Terms of Service).