Shark Teeth In Carolina And Beyond

I have a neighbor who estimates she’s collected about 250,000 shark teeth thus far. I promise you, if I had ended up in Chicago for the rest of my life, I would have no understanding of what I just said. How do you collect shark teeth?

I didn’t stay in Chicago for the rest of my life.

I know the answer to that question now.

Having not lived close to the ocean prior to moving to our island, I didn’t realize that shark teeth were ripe for the collecting. And if someone had mentioned the idea of collecting shark teeth to me without going into any detail, I would have pictured large white teeth along the edge of water that would clearly be teeming with sharks. Or better yet, some sick twisted coastal sport where people with issues go out in the ocean and wrestle open sharks’ jaws so that other people who also have issues can take pliers and wrench the teeth out of the poor sharks’ mouths.

The reality, in case any of you are half as clueless as I was when I moved here, which I highly doubt, is significantly more benign.

The teeth people collect when they talk about collecting shark teeth are actually fossilized teeth, dating back millions of years. Color-wise, this means they are black. Size-wise, most of the ones I’ve collected are well under an inch or even half an inch in length, and quite tiny in overall mass. I learned, from the plethora of shark literature available in stores and libraries and from various sea-inspired school projects the small people are sometimes required to do, that sharks have tens of thousands of teeth that fall out much more frequently than our teeth do. This means, among other things, that while there are sharks in our waters, they are not exactly “teeming” with sharks. ‘Cause let me tell you, if they were, Island Mom would not be getting in that water anytime soon. With intention, I have never watched more than two minutes of Jaws.

At any rate, my neighbor told me that she makes a point to collect at least 11 shark teeth every time she goes for a walk on the beach. I wish I had thought of that first. I love the idea of making your walk goal-oriented, in a non-fitness way.

As it stands, while I like to think of myself as the sea glass queen of the family, LCB is markedly better at finding shark teeth than I am. And my eldest is giving me a run for my money now, too. Little punk.

Lake Michigan, the closest large body of water we appear to be stationed by for a few weeks, doesn’t seem to have shark teeth. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped the small people from trying to find some. Even my eldest keeps attempting to engage me in a heated debate (I’m so not going there) as to whether bull sharks, who’ve been found pretty far north in the Mississippi River, for instance, could find a way to make it to Lake Michigan. We have these same conversations about many things, like dolphins, sea turtles, crabs, starfish, hurricanes, you name it. “Does this lake have dolphins?” they’ve asked in past visits to Lake Michigan. If I want to be really sadistic, I should stand by the Lake Michigan shore, point, and say “Dolphins!” and see how long their little eyes would scan the water before giving up. But I’ll probably refrain.

I guess they’re kind of like I was at their age, assuming my experiences within my locale were largely universal. As a child, I lived for many years in the suburbs of Chicago, so one of the things we would do when we had company was take them into the city to see the sights. I still remember being stunned one Thanksgiving when we took a new family member, who had never seen a big city, downtown and watched him stare up at all the skyscrapers in wonder. From my young vantage point, I thought they had these everywhere. Who doesn’t have a Sears Willis Tower close by?

I know the answer to that question now too.

6 Comment

  1. The only answer I ever want to hear to the question of whether a bull shark could navigate the Mississippi River into Lake Michigan is a resounding NO! All caps and and exclamation point. Unfortunately, I have seen way to many minutes of JAWS I-III and other movies that I am firmly convinced were made expressly for the sole purpose of keeping me out of salt water any deeper than my ankles. Then one day, I saw a documentary during Shark Week on the Discovery Channel (which I watch in both horror and fascination) about a tiny shark that found it’s way into some “walking tide pools” and mauled the ankle of a tourist. Which, coincidently was the exact moment that I committed myself to a Freshwater Lifestyle.

    1. Oh, I hate those stories. It takes forever to get them out of my head. In high school, a friend once mentioned an irrational fear of sharks he had that even extended, illogically, to pools. I laughed at the time, but then afterward my imaginative side started concocting a story whereby some sadistic person might put a shark in someone’s pool for kicks (I know, it’s really lame) and it took a long time to get that thought out of my head afterward. Especially if I went swimming at night. Clearly, I have issues, so I try not to watch anything that will add to them. BTW, I like the term “Freshwater Lifestyle.”

      1. OK, now I’m laughing, but only because I used to be afraid that some pools had a trap door in which the evil genius could release sharks to prey upon unsuspecting victims. Honest to goodness, I saw that once on the Superfriends and it took me forever to shake the thought. 😉

        1. Strangely enough, I think I saw that episode too. It’s amazing what kinds of illogical ideas can sit in your mind and just fester.

  2. I still have a collection of sharks’ teeth that I got on the beach of North Carolina, when I was in my early teens. I keep them in a Georgetown Cotton box. Do those stores still exist anywhere on the East Coast? Good times…. good memories…

    1. They are definitely fun to collect. Some tourists shops will make them into necklaces for you as another way of holding on to them. I think there might still be some Georgetown Cotton stores around, but if so they’re rare, I think. We usually end up keeping them in sandwich bags that end up floating all over the house.

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