Searching for shells is a given whenever you head to the beach. Our beaches though, have something extra in abundance to make you glance down more often- sharks teeth!
To see exactly how fossil rich the Charleston area is, take a trip downtown to a hidden gem of a museum- the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History at the College of Charleston. Here you’ll be able to view over 1000 fossils including rows of teeth, including the giant extinct shark Megalodon, found in the Charleston area. I was able to tag along with Dr. Robert Bossenecker from the college’s paleontology department to find out how to find some fossils!
We traveled to Northbridge Park, a prime spot to find some fossils. Folly, Edisto, Sullivans, maybe even your own backyard are good choices as well- especially if they are near water. Just be sure to have permission from the landowners if you end up on private land. Public lands are open game.
Before you start digging around, a few more ground rules- Dr. Bossenecker explains, “Don’t dig in the ground, that’s a big no no. Don’t pick from below the water or below the low tide line.” No hobby license is needed to just look and grab from the surface, but no using tools- as fines for digging can be several hundred dollars.
Finding sharks teeth boils down to “you’ll know it when you see it.” Just don’t be fooled by other black pebbles- composed of the same chemical shark’s teeth are made of- I was. There’s more than just shark’s teeth to be found on these shores- fossils of whale bone, turtle shell, and numerous other interesting sea life from millions of years ago. If you think you found something interesting or have any questions about what your find may be- you can always head to the museum or contact the Paleontology department at CofC.
Within 30 minutes we found several sharks teeth- including one from an extinct snaggletooth shark, and some whale bones- we’re lucky enough to live in a place where marine fossils such as shark teeth are plentiful and fairly easy to find.
As it turns out, those sharks teeth are not only linked with Charleston’s geologic history, but the history of the city itself. A lot of it boils down to a familiar word for Charleston commuters: phosphate. That will be explained next week as we continue to chat about fossils in another “Moment of Science”
Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson