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The Truth About the Shark Tooth!

By Liz Neroni, Naturalist 

I spent my childhood going to Florida every spring to visit my grandparents. As with most people, the beach was a required stop on our vacation. However, my family wasn’t interested in building sandcastles, swimming in the water, or even just soaking up the sun on a towel relaxing. My mom, dad, brother, and I were on a mission. We would spend what seemed like hours and hours walking along the shoreline searching for shark teeth. 

It became a tradition that we still participate in today. We would pick up the occasional beautiful shell or even a sand dollar, but the scanning and grabbing of black teeth was fierce. I honestly don’t remember how or why it became the focus of our adventures and I also couldn’t tell you much about the teeth themselves. It was a task, laced in quality family time and memories I wouldn’t change for the world. Yet, until my last trip, the collection of these items didn’t produce much thought past the competition of finding the best one. I never really cared to research and learn more about these treasures.  

Lamp decorated with shark teeth

In 25 years, we have collected thousands of teeth, and even made a lamp that highlighted the best specimens. Yet, this January I came across the largest I have ever seen. Before this moment, I had no idea that every shark tooth I held before this one was at least 10,000 years old, if not millions. I wasn’t just finding the teeth of shark swimming in the water in the same timeframe as our visit. I didn’t realize that in order for the tooth to be black it had to be fossilized. I just assumed the salty water changed the color. Instead, it’s due to the teeth being buried and absorbing the surrounding minerals, ultimately preserving the tooth. 

This summer, the Letterbox Adventure will focus on Oceans and Climate Change. We will also be adding four Delaware City Parks to the location list! With more parks to visit and more opportunities to complete the program, we will provide a prize to participants that will include a shark tooth necklace. So, remember to register and check out this fun self-guided activity! 

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