I’m not a native of Ponte Vedra Beach, or even of Florida. Before moving here seven years ago, I was more familiar with snow than sand. One of the first memories I have of living in Ponte Vedra is of looking for treasures buried in the sand or being washed over by the ocean. I loved collecting pink-and-white seashells, shark eyes, sea glass, and encountering interesting creatures like crabs, seagulls, and sometimes even jellyfish. My family had heard that shark teeth could be found on the beach too, but that particular prize eluded me for a long time. A friend of mine told me that once you find one, you will start seeing them everywhere, which is something I now find true as a shark tooth searching aficionado.
Shark teeth come in all shapes and sizes, and occasionally even different colors. This makes sense because there are many species of sharks with varying characteristics. The beaches in Ponte Vedra yield several kinds of teeth, including tiger sharks, lemon sharks, and bull sharks. The smallest teeth I have discovered are only a few millimeters long, while the largest are around an inch and a half.
There are a few things an amateur shark tooth hunter can do to increase their chances of finding and identifying a tooth, including going to the beach at certain times of day, looking in special areas, and knowing how to correctly distinguish a tooth from a shell with similar qualities.
Go Early in the Morning
The best time of day to search for shark teeth is in the morning. Fewer people are out and about then, which means shark teeth are less likely to have been already picked up. A benefit to getting out of bed early is that since Ponte Vedra is on the East Coast, you can watch the gorgeous sunrise as you look. Plus, the people who are at the beach in the morning often bring their dogs, which means you could make some adorable puppy friends!
Wait Until a Storm Passes Through
A good windy, rainy storm can frequently reveal awesome treasures. The ocean waves and the wind can shuffle shells
and sand around, which may unearth some great shark teeth.
Look for the Sweet Spots at Low Tide
Many guides to finding shark teeth say that walking along the edge of the water and keeping an eye out for teeth on the wet sand is the best way to locate them. However, in Ponte Vedra, I’ve found that there are certain “sweet spots” that usually hold lots of teeth in one place. When the tide is low, darker orange-tan deposits of small shells and rocks can be found along the beach. Sifting through those areas yields shark teeth more often than not for me.
Know What Shark Teeth Look Like
The shark teeth on the beaches of Ponte Vedra are usually pretty small. Almost all of the teeth I have collected are black and gray, as well as very shiny and glossy. Interestingly enough, this is because when the teeth are put under pressure from sand and dirt, they absorb the minerals around them. Phosphate is found in large quantities in Florida, which is what makes the shark teeth turn black as they fossilize (a process that takes at least 10,000 years!). If you are unsure whether an object you found is a tooth or not, brush off any sand or water and hold it up to the light to see if it has the characteristic glint.
Realize That There Are Multiple Types of Teeth
Not all shark teeth are made equal. Some have serrated edges, while others don’t. Certain species of sharks produce teeth that are long and narrow, but there are some that tend to be short and wide too. Sometimes a few will have roots that are an exaggerated “Y” curve, while others will be straighter. This diversity in the teeth makes hunting even more fun!
Now you have everything you need to know to get started shark tooth hunting! The first step is to just get out on the beach and look. Bring a plastic bag or cup to keep your treasures safe while you continue searching, as well as sunscreen and sunglasses or a hat to protect yourself from the sun. Most importantly, have fun! Ponte Vedra is a great place to find some “fin-tastic” teeth and to begin accumulating a shark tooth collection. Before long you will be an expert!
About the Author: Sadie Pichelmann is a graduate of Ponte Vedra High School. She was a finalist in the Ponte Vedra Focus Blog Writing Scholarship. She plans to attend Luther College in Decorah, Iowa this Fall.