The Living and the Dead: Fossilized Shark Teeth Wash Ashore
Sharks - yikes! They are the biggest scare for seaside vacationers. Unless they are dead and fossilized, that is. Topsail boasts of some fantastic fossilized shark teeth finds, as well as some (mostly) harmless shark species.
Don’t worry, there aren’t many dorsal fins to be found off the coast of Topsail. In fact, you are much more likely to see a manatee or a turtle or a crab than to have an encounter with a shark anywhere near topsail. You are in no danger of personally remaking Jaws. However, you just might stumble upon some shark teeth from long, long ago as you stroll along a peaceful, sunset lit beach.
Imagine walking along the beach one morning, the early morning Carolina mist rolling away from the shore and back out to sea. The pier is just up ahead. You are headed there because you know it is a prime spot to find shark teeth after fishermen have thrown the jaws over board. And the neighbor boy mowing your lawn back home has begged you to bring back a shark tooth. You begin to look closely at the sand beneath your feet as you approach the pier, not wanting to miss any fantastic find. And then you see it. A sharp, triangular point sticking out of the sand. It looks like the proper size and shape for a shark tooth, so you bend down to pick it up. When it doesn't easily come out of the sand, you start to dig around it a little, figuring that it just got a little stuck. After a lot more digging than you expected, you finally have it free of the beach. And it is no ordinary shark tooth. This one is as large as your hand! You didn't know such a size existed! And you certainly aren't planning on giving this find up to the neighbor boy.
Last fall, after storms hit the area, beachgoers began to find six inch long fossilized shark teeth from an ancient and now extinct species of shark. The Megalodon, which is what that ancient species is called, is estimated by experts to have been about 60 feet long! No complete, fossilized Megalodon has ever been found since sharks are primarily composed of cartilage which decomposes too quickly to be fossilized. However, experts are able to determine quite a bit about the shark from its teeth. Such as its size. With present day sharks, each inch of tooth correlates to ten feet in length. So, most current shark teeth are only one to two inches long. This means that if a Megalodon's tooth is six inches long, it had to have been at least 40 to 70 feet long! A human would have barely been an appetizer for this enormous creature. If you would like to read more about this frightening spices, you can look at this site.
If a Great White sounds frightening to you, then the thought of a Megalodon is terrifying! While no one has explored every inch of the ocean and documented every species, it is pretty safe to say that the Megalodon is extinct, or quite a lot of fresh teeth would have been found instead of just fossilized ones. Which is quite a relief.
Even the normal, still living sharks that swim the oceans today shouldn’t terrify you when you come to visit Topsail. While it is true that there are sharks that swim the ocean off the coast of the Carolinas, they mainly stay out in deep waters, hunting seals or other large marine animal prey. There are a couple of species that come relatively close to shore, namely the Tiger and Bull sharks, but attacks by both species are still quite rare. As long as you use common sense, such as not swimming when you have a bleeding, open wound, then you needn’t fear. An excellent article on how to stay safe in coastal waters and still swim to your heart’s content can be found here.
While you, thankfully, won’t see a live Megalodon in the waters off of Topsail, and you most likely won’t see any other type of shark, there are quite a few much friendlier sea creatures that you just might spot. In fact, this month a Manatee was already spotted swimming around a local dock in Topsail. Manatees, which prefer warm water, tend to stay in Georgian waters or further south at this time of year. However, June through October are good times to spot these gentle sea creatures in the North Carolinian waters. And, of course, there are sea turtles in Topsail! If you would like to read about these delightful animals, then please check out this blog post of ours.
There are lots of fun beach and sea creatures for you to discover and photograph during your Topsail vacation! And if you are interested in possibly finding some fossils, there is even a Topsail Facebook page for that. So hurry and book now with us! There is no time like the present for a little sea creature fun.