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Why Do We Find Sharks’ Teeth on Local Beaches?

Is the Bay full of sharks?

The teeth you find at beaches in Southern Anne Arundel and Calvert counties aren’t from sharks now living in the Bay. The teeth fall from the eroding cliffs around the Bay, where sharks lived during the Miocene Epoch, around 17 million years ago.
    At that time, Southern Maryland looked very different. We were a shallow, salty sea with a climate like North Carolina’s. Over millions of years, the sea receded and through erosion the land that was once the bottom of the ocean rose as Bayside cliffs. The fossils are remains of animals that once lived in the sea, from scallops to sharks.
    Shark teeth top off at seven inches, which means the Great White Shark that grew them was as big as a boxcar. But even an ancient tooth as tiny as a rose thorn can be a thrilling discovery. Learn about these treasures from Calvert Marine Museum, which has a fine collection and offers Fossil Field Experiences (the next is July 16), help in identification and the guidebook Fossils of Calvert Cliffs.
    In addition to shark teeth, a trip to Calvert Cliffs State Park, Flag Ponds or Chesapeake Beach Bayfront Park can yield finds of fossilized shells, whale bones and small sea creatures. The Maryland Geological Survey has a number of handy guides available on its website (www.mgs.md.gov) identifying the fossils you can find in the area.
    If you go fossil hunting, know that collecting fossils directly from the cliffs is prohibited. The regulation protects the cliffs and you: The cliffs are unstable, and a collapse can ruin your day. The best time to go searching for fossils is at low tide or just after a storm.


Has a sight stymied you? Does an oddity bewilder? Your curiosity may be featured in an upcoming column. Send your questions to chesapeakecuriosities@gmail.com.