Venice Island, Florida.
According to learned geologists and knowledgeable archeologists, this year-around summer state was once nothing at all. As in non-existent. That is, ancient history has what is now Florida, as nothing but a sand bar on the floor of the ocean. Of course that was 50 million years ago, give or take a millennium or two.
Now fast forward to this year, this month, and this week. A visit to one of several accessible beaches is if anything, a look at what those millions, and more recently, thousands of years have left as a reminder of the passage of time.
Lots of teeth. Zillions of teeth. And those teeth that attract the attention of just about everyone who visits this palm leaf shaded paradise, cooled just slightly by the clear and gentle waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Indeed, Venice must be the shark teeth capital of the world, if not the universe. And just as sure as the sun sets over the Gulf each evening in a spectacular display of time-lapse color that draws crowds and their enthusiastic applause, the mid-day beaches are filled from one end to the other with shark teeth hunters.
Toting small screened baskets on pipe handles, each anxious hunter digs in the surf in hopes of finding one petrified shark tooth, then another if they are lucky, a tooth that may have lain submerged for tens of thousands of years, waiting patiently for the constant movement to the Gulf waters to carry it to the beach and to the screened basket of a visiting tourist.
These teeth — so sought after by locals and tourists alike — are pre-historic relics, reminders of the earth’s early residents, sharks that have been part of the living world for eons. In the history of the world, there are found to be some 370 species of sharks, all of which have one thing in common.
They are toothy to the umpteenth degree. All sharks, then and now, shed teeth on a regular basis. Each shark has several rows of teeth with up to 40 teeth in each row. Studies show that in its lifetime, a single shark can produce thousands of teeth. And too, each species of shark sports an identifiable shape of tooth.
Sharks come in all sizes from six inches to 60 feet in length. But only three or four species are known to attack humans.
Found teeth vary in color and size: black, brown, and everything in between, 1/8 inch to three inches in size and triangular in shape. Of the thousands recovered each season by casual to serious teeth hunters, most are quite small.
The trophy is a tooth an inch or larger in size but those are few and far between. Each day and each tide brings a fresh batch of sand, small shells, and teeth to the waiting hunters. Indeed, it’s a hunt worth trying and a perfect pastime to fill the time between remarkable sunsets.
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