Venice hosts 3-day shark’s tooth festival in mid-April
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Sharks have lived and died in the Gulf of Mexico for millions of years, and since the mighty ocean predators continually produce new teeth (up to 24,000 in the lifetime of a single tiger shark) it stands to reason that some of those teeth end up as fossils that wash up on Florida beaches.
During those eons, millions of sharks have died and sunk to the bottom of the gulf, where the carcasses are covered with silt and sand. The flesh and cartilage of the bodies disintegrate, but the teeth remain and gradually become fossilized. Some of them eventually wash up on the beaches with changing tides and waves, where they fascinate beachcombers who sift the sand with long-handles sieves in hopes of finding a perfect specimen — perhaps a well-preserved, five-inch dagger from a Carcharodon megalodon, at 50 feet, the largest shark to ever swim the seas.
The area around Venice, Florida, is a ground zero of sorts for the petrified teeth, and this weekend (April 8-10, 2011), the seaside town celebrates its status with a three-day shark’s tooth festival. The event features plenty of shark’s tooth hunting on the beach, as well as displays by hundreds of vendors selling prime specimens of shark’s teeth, as well as other prehistoric fossils.
Of course, petrified shark’s teeth can be found on many other beaches in the region, but a combination of currents and the composition of the seabed make Venice a hotspot. Some experts say that, because the sea is relatively calm around Venice, there is an especially high concentration of teeth in the sedimentary layers just off the shore that continually wash up on the beaches. Click here for more information on Venice sharks’ teeth beaches.
Even a short stroll along one of the strands in the area often yields at least a handful of the tiny 10 million year-old treasures. If you do comb the beaches, you’ll be in good company. The first written record of finding fossilized shark’s teeth is by the Roman naturalist and author Pliny the Elder, who recorded his observations and speculated that the triangular objects fell from the sky during lunar eclipses.
For a while, it was believed that they were petrified tongues of dragons or snakes, and were considered to be antidotes for various poisons and toxins. As a result, many noblemen in early history wore them as pendants as good-luck charms. In oceanic cultures, the teeth have been used as tools and weapons, including as studs in clubs.
Filed under: Florida, Travel Tagged: | Florida, Fossil, fossils, Gulf of Mexico, Manasota Key Florida, Megalodon, petrified shark't teeth, Shark, Summit County News, Travel, Venice Florida, Venice shark's tooth festival