How many of you love a good treasure hunt? If you’re vacationing in the Carolinas, I have just the thing then…shark tooth hunting! Let’s explore why this is such a great nature science activity for the kiddos too.
Hello there and happy summer! How many of you have gone to vacation on the coast and went shell hunting?
I’m a treasure hunter myself and I think this is why I enjoy looking for the perfect seashell. I also like treasure hunting in thrift stores and yard sales but that’s a story for another time. 😉
We usually vacation on the shores of the Carolina coast in the North Myrtle Beach area. Last year I decided to buy a book on shark tooth hunting, as my kids have always been obsessed with sharks.
We looked last summer, and we didn’t find a single shark tooth. We did find many shells that looked like shark teeth that were able to fool us though!
But this summer was different. We found around twelve shark teeth in all during our week of vacation. Now that doesn’t seem like a lot, however, we were pretty happy with our loot.
Shark tooth hunting is a great science lesson for kids too. There are so many shark teeth to discover, and it’s fun and educational to determine what species they are.
So here are my tips for shark tooth hunting if you are vacationing in the Carolinas. I’ll also give you my recommendation on a great little book we purchased for our adventure.
Shark Teeth are Usually Smaller Than You Expect
I say this first because I feel like this is a biggy. Last year I was surveying the beach looking for something pretty large to be a shark tooth.
However, the ones we found were actually quite small. They were smaller than a dime.
That may be because we tend to go to the shore during peak season. This means others are out there too perusing the beaches for the elusive shark teeth.
Any large ones would be snatched up pretty quickly for sure!
If you vacation during the less populated beach times you may have better luck finding some larger varieties.
Shark Teeth Found Were Black
So the advice here is, don’t go out there looking for only white teeth. Although I’m sure they’re out there, they seem to be quite harder to spot.
All of the teeth we found were the color black. In looking this up, we found that it’s because these teeth are fossilized. Fossilization occurs over time and is caused by the porous shark teeth absorbing minerals from the sediment that they are resting in.
For a more in-depth look at shark teeth fossilization check out this post on sciencenotes.org.
Another note on the appearance of shark teeth is that they have a different sheen when they’re wet than seashells do. I’m still honing my eye for this one!
In the book we read, it says that shark tooth hunters for jewelry will go out at night with spotlights and find shark teeth that way. They can tell just by the way the light hits the tooth. Possibly something to try in future beach trips!
Location Matters When Searching for Shark Teeth
The area of the beach you are searching on matters too. We found most of ours in an area that was freshly wet with seawater.
We looked but didn’t find any, in the dry area of sand where there are clusters of shells.
A few were also found where the water rushes in and out. I realized this is why shark tooth hunters carry those sticks with cups that look like strainers on the end. It’s super tough to grab a promising find as the water is rushing back out.
I plan to invest in one for next year’s beach excursion!
The book we read (shown at the end of the post) discusses each section of the beach, and how to spot shark teeth in each area.
The book also tipped us off about some great beaches to look for shark teeth on when vacationing in the Carolinas. One of these places is Cherry Grove Pier.
We drove to the pier around 8 a.m. (early for us) and within about an hour and a half, we had found 5 shark teeth. So if you’re near there it’s definitely a place to check out!
Shark Tooth Identification
After finding some interesting shark tooth specimens, one of the fun things to do is try to figure out what species they are!
The book gives you characteristics to look for and which species are most common in the Carolinas.
The kids and I used both the book and the internet to research which teeth we proposed we had found.
This makes shark tooth hunting a great nature science study for the kiddos!
Below are the pictures of the shark teeth and our best guesses as to which species they are.
We found Blacktip, Mackerel, and Sand Tiger shark teeth. The last tooth we classified as a Great White based on the characteristics of the tooth, even though it looked a bit too small to be that species.
Don’t Be Fooled by Look-Alike Shells
Okay, adult and kiddo treasure hunters alike! It’s not always easy to find the treasure, right? That’s just part of the fun!
You will pick up many shells that look just like shark teeth. It’s amazing how many can be the same size, shape, color, etc.
As soon as you pick up a real one though, you’ll know without a doubt you’ve just found what so many other beach hunters are searching for too!
Below is a pic of a comparison between look-alike shells and the real deal – shark teeth!
Shark Tooth Hunting – A Great Nature Science Activity
Shark tooth hunting is such a fun pastime and it’s a great nature science activity to involve the kiddos in.
In addition to learning about how and where to search for shark teeth, they can then research which species of shark belongs to which tooth.
Some other educational things to do are…
Discuss why shark teeth are the color they are – black, white, grey, or tan.
Look at the different characteristics of each tooth to determine what species they belong to. Then it’s fun to look up a picture of the shark that may own that particular tooth.
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Ready to go Shark Tooth Hunting!
So when the kids are tired after playing in the waves and building sandcastles, introduce them to the joy of shark tooth hunting.
Gather your supplies (a beach hat, sunglasses, shell catcher, and a small jar to hold the shark teeth) can all be helpful. And don’t forget the sunblock!
Be sure to include this INFORMATIVE BOOK about shark tooth hunting by Ashley Oliphant in your supply list too! Especially if you’re headed to the Carolina area for your beach trip!
Get out there and go treasure hunting with your kiddos. Make some awesome memories. You won’t be disappointed!