The sci-fi thriller “The Meg” may have had many viewers jumping out of their seats, but the discovery of an enormous fossilized megalodon shark tooth in South Carolina shows just how terrifying these prehistoric creatures really must have been.
Charleston resident Jessica Rose-Standafer Owens, her husband, and some friends were hunting for fossils in a local riverbank when she happened upon a big one. She later shared her discovery in a Facebook post.
Her caption read: “If I never find another shark tooth, I will be just fine!”
The tooth measures 5.75 inches long and weighs just under 1 pound (approx. 450 g), and was estimated to be between 3 million and 5 million years old, according to the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History at the College of Charleston.
The Charleston area with its many waterways and location near the Atlantic is known as a great place to find fossils. Owens and her party were on a fossil-hunting expedition with Write Off the Rip Charters, which specializes in fishing and finding megalodon teeth.
After sifting through rocks and mud on the banks of the Stono River, Owens was confident she had found something special. “I don’t know much about the smaller teeth, if they’re great white or a bull shark or what not,” she told WCIV, “but something that large, it’s just automatically megalodon.”
In a video of the discovery posted on her Facebook, she shared, “We think we found a tooth, but I wanted to get it on video, because if it’s a tooth, it’s going to be the biggest one we have ever found.”
(Courtesy of Jessica Rose-Standafer Owens)
As Owens started to dig, her husband, Simon Chandley Owens, warned not to pull too hard and potentially break the fossil. The two became progressively more excited as they felt sure of their find. “Oh my God, you guys,” the lucky fossil hunter shouted. “I’m done. I can literally go home.”
The Charleston Natural History Museum authenticated the find and congratulated them on their sharp eyes. “That’s a great meg find—finds like that are why Charleston is known as the megalodon capital of the world!” they reportedly told Owens. Judging from the surrounding layer of Goose Creek limestone, the museum estimated the tooth to date from the Pliocene era.
Megalodon itself means “big tooth,” and that’s certainly appropriate for this giant shark species that lived during the early Miocene to the Pliocene period (some 20 million to 3 million years ago). This shark (Otodus megalodon) seems to be related to the famous great white and was likely one of the biggest fish to ever exist, according to the London Natural History Museum.
As for why megalodon had such huge teeth, scientists believe they were adapted to hunt large marine animals. “If you are that big you need to eat a lot of food, so large prey is required,” London NHM fossil fish curator Emma Bernard explains.
Although the megalodon is long gone, it’s believed they once probably crossed paths with ancestors of the great white sharks of today. “As we’ve found more and more fossils, we’ve realized that the ancestor to the great white shark lived alongside megalodon,” Bernard says. “Some scientists think they might even have been in competition with each other.”
Meanwhile, Owens continues her shark tooth hunting, though she realizes this megalodon tooth might have been the find of her life. “I don’t want to say I’m done with shark tooth hunting because I love it,” she confided, “but I’m totally okay with finding little ones for the rest of my life now.”
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