Monday, May 28, 2012

Just a Walk on the Beach

Serenity.  Peace.  One with nature.  The thrill of discovery and the satisfaction of the find.  The gentle slapping of waves against the shoreline acting as natures sorting machine while lulling you into imagining what life must have been like 65 million years ago along these waters.  That pretty much describes my experiences while beachcombing for fossilized shark teeth.  And it's even better as a family activity.  Imagine walking a beach, perhaps having the beach all to yourself with the only stress being how to navigate by wading around fallen trees or other obstacles, or perhaps climbing over them, to get to fresh collecting areas.  And it's even better when you have someone to share it with.
With fossil material all over the beach, all you have to do is enjoy the peace and quiet, and pick the fossils up off the beach.  What a great activity to share with my daughter, and bring home some of natures treasures as well.
In my case, it's a perfect way for me to bond with my daughter.  We've been collecting shark teeth and other fossils together for many years now.  Each trip results in the satisfaction of finding shark teeth, but more important than that, memories that last a lifetime sharing the experience with a loved one.  The great thing about my daughter now, is that although she's grown into a lovely college aged woman, she still loves to go with me.  And now she's getting back into fishing too, which is even better.

Our last trip was to a location where the finds consisted of Palaeocene shark, ray, and reptilian fossils.  For more information on fossils from this era, check out my post titled, "Catching Prehistoric Sharks".  We took some good friends from New York that were down for the weekend on a fossiling trip along with us in hopes of finding Otodus obliquus teeth, fossilized teeth of a gigantic great white shark of that era that grew from thirty to forty feet in length or perhaps some of the rarer teeth from that era.
Otodus obliquus, far left, was believed to be an ancestor of the famous gigantic shark Carcharocles megalodon (far right).

Palaeocarcharodon orientalis.  Photo courtesy of Kevin May.
We all had a goal of finding teeth from two species of fossilized shark teeth from that time are very rare, the pygmy great white shark Palaeocarcharodon orientalis, and a bottom dwelling shark similar to todays cat sharks, Paraorthacodus clarkii, along with the impressive Otodus teeth.  You also have a chance to find crocodile and ratfish teeth.  But the most common type of tooth found there are those of the sand tiger sharks.

Sand tiger sharks were the dominant species of that time.  Not that they were the most dominant of sharks, rather, the number of species of that type of shark far outnumbered other types of sharks.

Last week, one of our friends found a worn but rather large (for this location) Palaeocarcharodon orientalis tooth within the first ten minutes after our arrival.  Amazing.  You never know what or when you'll find something like that!  My daughter and I weren't so lucky, but we did manage to find a good many shark teeth including some nice Otodus obliquus teeth and a pile of sand tiger shark teeth.
Otodus teeth like this one found by my daughter a couple years ago of this size are rare.  Although we didn't find any like this one on this trip, we did find several teeth up to an inch and a half long though, which are also a nice addition to our collection.

Although I didn't find the rare teeth, I did manage to find six nice Otodus teeth (top row) with the biggest having a slant height of an inch and a half.  I also found a piece of pottery (bottom left).

My daughter's finds on the trip, including a crocodile tooth (bottom left just above that piece of turtle shell).  She found some huge sand tiger shark teeth too (second and third row).
Finding shark teeth on the beach can be easy as some of them just seem to appear by themselves on the beach.  Others are much tougher to find because they blend in with the rocks, pebbles, sand and shell fragments making them difficult to see.  All it takes is one wave to wash away some sand and uncover a tooth.  There are other fossils there too, like internal molds of gastropods or even entire shells.  I've added a few of these to my collection over the years, but my preference is to collect vertebrate fossils, especially shark teeth.
Although I prefer to collect vertebrate fossils like shark teeth but have added some gastropod fossils to my collection over the years, sometimes it's nice to find them all in one nice neat package.  Here is a shark tooth in matrix combined with an internal mold of the gastropod, Turritella.

See the Otodus tooth?  It's to the right of my skimmer tool.
Here's a close up of the Otodus tooth.

All it takes is one wave to wash a little sand away and uncover a tooth (center).
When the wave clears, here's the treasure left behind.  A nice sized Otodus tooth.
We also observed tournament anglers practicing for a big tournament later that weekend.  Prior to them moving to our location, large fish were feeding on the surface just a cast off shore.  The commotion was far too much for largemouth bass, so my guess was that they were either large striped bass feeding on shad or herring, or perhaps big blue catfish.  Either way, the fish busting the surface were massive.  I wondered if any of those anglers had hooked anything like that during the day while targeting largemouth.

Another plus while beachcombing for shark teeth is that you often see things that most people don't get to see when it comes to nature.  Like hunting and fishing, fossil collectors often encounter wildlife.  Sometimes we'll encounter deer, fox, mink, or just about any animal that frequents a river bank.  The other day, we found a breeding pair of five lined skink.  These beautiful lizards could care less that we were there and let us sneak up to take a picture.
We were able to sneak up and take a picture of this breeding pair of five lined skinks. 
So, last week we had a great time sharing a fossiling spot with our friends Mike, Mike and Nick from New York.  In return, they invited us to collect at some of their spots further North.  I think that we'll take them up on their offer.  We had a great time socializing with them and collecting.

For me, any time I can get out with my daughter outdoors is a great day, whether it's finding shark teeth on the beach or out on a fishing trip.  I can't think of a better way to spend time with someone you care about.  Can you?


Jessica @ portable loos said...

Wow... a great collection. I have never seen shark teeth and fossils this much clearly, this is so amazing and outstanding.

Fat Boy said...

Thank you Jessica! I'm glad that you enjoyed the post. I hope to get out and collect again soon, so please check back every now and then. I'll try and post new pictures and a little story each time I get out.