It’s been confirmed that the incredible find belonged to a megalodon, the largest shark that ever lived. Sammy Shelton and his father, Peter Shelton, were out searching for sea shells on Bawdsey Beach in Suffolk, United Kingdom – a well-known location for fossil hunters. What they found that day was way beyond their expectations.
Sammy spotted a 4 inch (10 centimeters) long tooth simply lying in the sand, while scanning the shoreline. They realized right away that it was no ordinary shark tooth, and other fossil hunters on the beach confirmed that, indeed, it had belonged to a megalodon.
“Really we were looking for interesting shells on the beach but instead we got this megalodon tooth. It was huge and very heavy. I knew what it was but it wasn’t until I took it to others looking on the beach that I realized the significance. There was one guy down there who’s been looking all his life for a megalodon tooth and never found anything of this size.” said Sammy’s father, Mr. Shelton.
The pictures of Sammy’s ancient find were also checked by Professor Ben Garrod, evolutionary biologist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. He confirmed what the other fossil hunters on the beach had said, adding that megalodon teeth are considered to be very rare fossils in the UK – only 1 or 2 are found on UK shores a year.
Professor Garrod also points out that Sammy’s tooth is in particularly good condition. Usually megalodon teeth are heavily eroded when found, but even the enamel and root are still visible in the case of this one.
“I have looked for one since I was Sammy’s age and never found one. He is handling the tooth of the largest ever predatory shark and one that will be of interest to the whole palaeontology community,” explained Professor Garrod.
The name megalodon literally means “giant tooth”, and its full Latin name is Otodus megalodon. It lived around 23 to 3,6 million years ago, and it was the largest shark to ever swim in the world’s oceans – it was around 3 times bigger than a great white shark, the largest shark roaming the seas today.
The megalodon was the apex predator of its time, preying upon anything it felt like, although its favorite prey were whales. The huge shark attacked its prey in the open waters, near the surface, when it came up for air.
Since these large prehistoric animals had cartilaginous skeletons (like all sharks), everything we know about them is based on their teeth. They likely reached 49 feet (15 meters) in length, but they could have been as long as 65 feet (20 meters).
Their 10-feet (3 meters) wide mouths were filled with an insane number of 276 teeth. It’s believed that this jaw, that evolved to bite and grab prey, packed the most powerful bite ever – no wonder it was an apex predator.
The megalodon went extinct around 3,6 million years ago, when the ecosystem began to get cooler in many parts of the world. According to fossil records, it could have been found all around the world, and remains of the large shark have been found around the coast of every continent, except Antarctica.
Sammy has shared his once-in-a-lifetime find with his friends at school, and was even awarded an explorer badge by his Beaver Scouts group. He’s also very keen on going back to the beach, and digging up more ancient fossils. “At the moment he’s keeping it by his bedside,” said his father.