by Barbara Ann Weibel at Hole In The Donut
Any list of the world’s most unique beaches would have to include the five beaches of Venice, Florida (Venice Beach, Nokomis Beach, North Jetty Beach, Brohard Beach, and Caspersen Beach) because they are the best places on the planet to dig for petrified shark’s teeth. These ten million year old fossilized shark teeth range in size from one-eighth inch long to three inches long and represent at least ten different species, several of which are extinct.
For eons, sharks have died in the Gulf of Mexico. Their carcasses sink to the ocean floor and are covered by layers of sand and silt, where they decompose, leaving only their teeth and jaws. Sharks have seven rows of teeth; each row consists of 40 or more teeth. The front row is used to feed until they wear out, at which time they are shed and a new row of teeth moves up and into place. Since a single Tiger shark can produce as many as 24,000 teeth in ten years, that means literally billions of teeth have been deposited in the Gulf.
Thousands of years ago, sea levels were much higher and most of south Florida was underwater. Unlike other areas of the state, in the Venice area the wave action was much calmer, which allowed the teeth to remain in place rather than being swept far out to sea. Since the waters have long ago receded and the coastline in this area is now being eroded, sharks teeth are exposed by every major storm, earning the town the right to bill themselves as the “Shark Tooth Capitol of the World.”
Take a walk on any of Venice’s beaches and you will no doubt see people digging in the sand with long-handled steel sieves, hoping with each basketful to discover a prize fossil. Of the five beaches in the area, Caspersen is held by most to be the very best location to hunt for shark teeth. Venice Beach is such a popular shark tooth hunting spot that the town uses a picture of a fossilized shark tooth to form the “V” in Venice and holds a Shark’s Tooth Festival each April. Venice is located on Florida’s Gulf coast, midway between Sarasota and Naples.
Photos courtesy of Barbara Ann Weibel