At any given moment in an adult great white shark’s life, it can have 50 (very sharp!) working teeth. On top of those 50, they have 300 more in different stages of development, ready to take over when any one of the 50 falls out. It’s fair to say that sharks and their teeth are often thought of at the same time. What can those shark tooth fossils tell us about their owners?
Do Sharks Have Bones?
Sharks do not have bones; instead, they are made up of cartilage. This is why they are known as “elasmobranchs,” which means they are fish made up of cartilaginous tissues. This is the same material that your ears and nose are made of! Other fish in this category include skates, sawfish, and rays.
Although sharks are made up of cartilage, they can still fossilize! As they age, they deposit calcium salts into their skeletal cartilage in order to keep it strong. Therefore, the dried jaws of sharks feel heavy. Shark teeth have enamel, and that’s why we can find shark tooth fossils (and make beautiful shark tooth necklaces).
How Were Shark Tooth Fossils Viewed in Ancient Times?
Originally, people had many questions about shark tooth fossils, even thinking that they fell from the sky. Pliny the Elder has been cited as the first to discover one, and he believed that they came during lunar eclipses. When they were found in rocks, it was thought that they were the tongues of dragons and snakes, which led to them being called “tongue stones.”
The first shark tooth necklaces were worn as pendants to protect against bad luck, and the teeth were also used as remedies in potions. By 1611, Fabio Colonna recognized shark tooth fossils for what they were and corrected the notion. In the book “The Head of the Shark,” Nicolaus Steno illustrated them, showing the teeth correctly positioned inside a shark’s mouth.
What are the Types of Shark Teeth?
The four types of shark teeth tell us about the different types of sharks, and it’s all based on their choice of dining fare and their table manners. Depending on the type of tooth you find, you may have found one from a shark that comes from local waters and hunts small prey and is no danger to you. It also might come from a shark that is millions of years old and ate sharks three times larger than a human!
These 4 tooth types are:
- Dense flattened
- Needle-like, thin, and sharp
- Pointed lower and triangular upper
Dense Flattened Shark Teeth
This type of shark teeth is used for crushing prey, like crustaceans. These are from the mouths of nurse and angel sharks. Sharks with dense, flattened teeth do not pose harm to humans.
Needle-Like Shark Teeth
For our blue, lemon, and mako sharks, the needle-like, thin, sharp teeth are necessary. They hunt for slippery prey, such as smaller to medium fish and squid. The sharp teeth are needed so they can grab quickly and hang on to their choice of meal.
Triangular Shark Teeth
For our aggressive hunters, like the great white and the bull shark, they have the most common version of what we think of when we think of a shark tooth; the triangular, serrated version.
What’s interesting about these teeth is that there is a formula to figure out the size of their owners. Measure the length of one side of the tooth in inches, then multiply by ten to get the total length of the shark in feet.
Non-Functional Shark Teeth
Finally, we get our gentle giants, the basking sharks and whale sharks, with their non-functional teeth. These teeth are like baleen on a whale. These sharks’ teeth filter their food so they can feed on plankton.
It isn’t just sharks that you can tell apart by their teeth. You can identify other animals by their teeth as well. And you thought it was just humans that found dental records important!
Why are Some Shark Tooth Fossils Black and Others White?
The answer lies in knowing two things: one, how easily sharks’ teeth fall out and how old they are. First, it helps to know that sharks’ teeth have no roots, so they can fall out very easily. Also, sharks are known to have over 20,000 teeth in their lifetime. That can be quite costly for the Tooth Fairy!
So, knowing that they fall out easily means that there are plenty of shark teeth fossils around to find, even from millions of years ago. Next, we look at why some are black and some are white. The teeth are made of enamel, and the color is determined by the type of sediment that the shark tooth fossil has been sitting in, as well as the length of time. Therefore, the black and darker teeth are older (from extinct sharks) than the white and light-colored ones (from sharks that are still living).
What Caused Some Sharks to Become Extinct?
Like many other species, due to habit endangerment, loss of prey, and various other factors, certain sharks became extinct, though we still find their fossilized teeth! These five are no longer living, and, for some, scientists can only make best guesses about their size and behavior. They rely on the shark teeth fossils they find to tell them information about what they ate, their habitats, where they traveled, and how they procreated.
5 Extinct Sharks:
- Otodus Obliquus
- Carcharocles Sokolovi
- Parotodus Benedeni
The Extinct Otodus Obliquus
These fossilized teeth direct us to images of a shark that would grow up to 30 feet long. Otodus Obiliquus is a prehistoric shark from the Cenozoic age with a direct genetic line to the Megalodon, that famous shark that ruled the oceans up until the modern era.
Because sharks’ bodies are made of cartilage and, therefore, do not fossilize, we are left to study shark tooth fossils. Shark teeth can provide us clues to how they lived and died in prehistoric times. The Otodus Obliquus most likely ate prehistoric whales, smaller sharks, and the plentiful prehistoric fish that lived in the oceans 50 million years ago.
Auriculatus – A Great Ancient Shark
Related to the Megalodon, shark tooth fossils of the Auriculatus show us that this was an apex predator. This shark most likely hunted prey by waiting for them to surface for air and then ramming them at great speeds, incapacitating them and then finishing them off. Show off your new knowledge with a beautiful Auriculatus fossil shark tooth necklace!
Carcharocles Sokolovi Fossils
Not much is known about this shark. The Carcharoles Sokolovi is an extinct species of a large shark in the family Otondontidae, which means it may represent a transitional chronospecies between Otodus Auriculatus and Otodus Angustidens. Due to subtle differences, their shark tooth fossils are sometimes lumped in with Auriculatus.
Generally, it is said that Carcharocles Sokolovi span from late Eocene to early Oligocene. They are most often found around Morocco and Egypt, but they have been found in many sites. Buy your own Carcharocles Sokolovi shark tooth fossil to show off your cool shark obsession!
Fossilized Parotodus Benedeni Teeth
The Parotodus Benedeni is referred to as the False Mako shark, and yet, it is not related to the mako shark in any way. Their shark tooth fossils are considered rare. For reference, these teeth are hundreds of times rarer than a Megalodon tooth. You can get a Parotodus Benedeni shark tooth necklace and regale your friends with tales of the singularity of this tooth!
The Megalodon - Rulers of the Ocean
The Megalodon, often referred to as the largest shark that ever lived, has shark tooth fossils as large as seven inches long. These teeth were specialized for feeding on large, fleshy prey, such as whales and dolphins.
Is the Megalodon the Largest Shark that ever Lived?
When discussing sharks, many people refer to the Megalodon as the largest shark, the “big one,” the reference mark that all other sharks are to be compared to, thanks to the size of their shark tooth fossils. The Megalodon was said to be between 15 and 18 meters long, which would make it three times larger than the largest recorded great white shark.
Yes, the Megalodon was the largest shark that ever lived. Not only was it the biggest shark to ever live, but it was one of the largest fish to ever exist.
Without a full skeleton to examine (remember, sharks are elasmobranchs!), scientists are left to rely on studying their shark tooth fossils to determine the size of the creatures. In fact, the name “Megalodon” simply means “large tooth.” It is certainly fitting since some of these shark tooth fossils have been found up to 18 centimeters long!
Megalodon Shark Teeth
The Megalodon teeth can tell us a lot more than just clues about their size. Because of the serration on the shark tooth fossil, we can tell the behemoth was a meat eater, with a taste that was most likely for whales, other large fish, and probably other sharks. Fossilized whale bones have been found with the marks of Megalodon teeth etched into them.
Their teeth have been found on every continent except for Antarctica, which leads scientists to believe that they were adapted to warm tropical and subtropical locations around the globe. It was this very adaptation that may have foretold their extinction. Due to the cooling of the planet, the adult sharks they fed upon were subject to loss of habitat. With their food declining or adapting to cooling water and moving to where the Megalodon couldn’t follow, the massive sharks were left in dire straits.
Additionally, the Megalodon liked to give birth to their pups in shallow, warmer waters, close to shore. These waters protected the pups from predators that were lurking in the open waters. As the ice formed at the poles and the sea level dropped, these nursery grounds would have been destroyed.
7 Fast Fun Facts About Sharks
- Shark skin feels like sandpaper. This is because it has placoid scales or tiny teeth-like structures. The scales help reduce friction from surrounding water so they can swim more easily.
- Sharks go into a trance when they are flipped upside down called “tonic immobility.”
- It has been theorized that sharks have been around for the past 455 million years.
- Most sharks have good eyesight - sharks can see in dark-lighted areas, have great night vision, and can see colors. They have a reflective layer of tissue called tapetum in the back of their eyeballs; therefore, they can see well with little light, like cats.
- Blue sharks are really blue. The mako and porbeagle sharks have a somewhat blue coloration but not nearly to the extent of the blue shark. Most other sharks are brown, olive, or grayish tones.
- Every whale shark has a spot pattern that is as unique as a human’s fingerprint.
- Different sharks reproduce in different ways. There are oviparous (egg-laying) species and viviparous (live-bearing) species. The oviparous species lay eggs that develop and hatch outside the mother’s body with no parental care after the eggs are laid.
Shark Teeth from Living Shark Species
While shark teeth fossils tell stories about extinct predecessors, you can also have a shark tooth from a living species. Since they don’t have roots, their teeth fall out frequently. Often, these teeth will wash up on the shore for happy beachcombers to find.
2 Popular Sharks:
- Bull Sharks
- Mako Sharks
Bull Shark Teeth
Bull sharks are often considered to be one of the most dangerous sharks to humans because they are aggressive, and they tend to come into contact with humans the most. Additionally, they use the “bump and bite” method of hunting, which can be fatal to humans. They also can live in both saltwater and freshwater, which is one more reason that they come into close contact with humans.
However, overall, shark attacks are rare. Bull shark teeth are notable by their tapering serrations and flat, broad blades that narrow toward the top. They are usually one inch long or slightly shorter.
How do their teeth tell us that they are dangerous? Because they are triangle and serrated, we know that they eat large prey by biting and tearing.
Mako Shark Teeth
Mako is a word with Māori roots. Mako can mean either “shark” or “shark tooth” in Māori. There are two types of Mako sharks: the longfin and the shortfin, and the longfin type wasn’t identified as its own type until 1966! These shortfin types are quite speedy and have been known to reach speeds of up to 65 mph. They also are quite the leapers- they are prized for their meat, and thus fishermen love them – however, they aren’t quite as enamored when the makos leap into their boats!
They also have had a brush with fame. Ernest Hemingway wrote about them in “The Old Man in the Sea” - yes, it was a mako shark that took those 40 pounds of meat off the Old Man’s fish! How are mako sharks’ teeth well suited to stealing the Old Man’s fish off the line? Since they are sharp and needle-like, the mako can easily dash in and rip off a piece of the fish.
When Did People Start Wearing Sharks’ Tooth Necklaces?
People have been wearing sharks’ tooth necklaces for centuries. Before they were worn as jewelry, teeth were originally used as weapons, added to clubs, arrows, and daggers. You may have also found people using shark teeth as tools for food preparation and writing. In Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures, one would wear a shark tooth necklace when going into the ocean as protection against shark bites. Some sailors would also wear a shark tooth necklace as protection against drowning.
Today, most people wear shark tooth necklaces as a fashion statement. They are popular in surfing cultures, but it is also popular in Bohemian fashion circles. You can find shark tooth necklaces wrapped in precious metals or hung on a silk or leather cord, singularly or grouped together.
Some of our Favorite Shark Tooth Necklaces:
- Parotodus Benedeni with Pyrite Inlay Shark Tooth Necklace
- Megalodon Shark Tooth Necklace
- Auriculatus Shark Tooth Necklace
- Mako Shark Tooth Necklace
- Bull Shark Tooth Necklace
Shark teeth are useful while in the shark’s mouth and a fashion statement or collectible once out of the mouth. Nature has created a near-perfect machine in the water, and we recognize that strength and honor it by wearing it once found. Check out our wide selection of shark tooth necklaces and pick your favorite today!