A 6-year-old boy who was combing a British beach for fossils shocked British scientists when he discovered the tooth of an ancient sea-monster.
Sammy Sheldon found the 4-inch-long tooth of a megalodon shark while enjoying a day at Bawdsey Beach at Gorleston-on-Sea in Suffolk with his dad, Peter, when he found the ancient artefact.
Sammy’s dad told the BBC that the boy was delighted to have picked up the rare find.
“Sammy was very excited as we’d seen fragments of shark teeth on the beach, but nothing as big and heavy as this,” he told the BBC. He added that Sammy has become “very attached” to the huge tooth, so much so that he even sleeps with it on his pillow!
“Now that Sammy has found this it has really piqued his interest [in paleontology] and he took it to school to show his class,” Mr Shelton told the Great Yarmouth Mercury.
Megalodon sharks lived in the ocean between 23 to 3 million years ago during the Jurassic period, although it would not have cruised the sea at the same time the dinosaurs walked the Earth. It evolved as the Earth recovered from the Ice Age as life began to flourish again on land and in the oceans.
The giant Great White-like shark would have resembled a sea monster from legends and fables with a jaw measuring a terrifying 9ft by 11ft and an unimaginable 59ft long body.
The average Great White measures in at around 15ft by comparison. According to scientist’s predictions, the giant shark’s bite power would have far succeeded even the T-Rex, which had a bite force of around 60,000 newtons compared to the megalodon’s 182,200 newtons.
Scientist say that, like modern-day sharks, the megalodon periodically shed its teeth to grow sharper, new around every 2 weeks. During their lifetime, the creature would have produced around 40,000 teeth, perhaps explaining why it’s relatively common to find them throughout the world, although not in Britain.
The jaws of an ancient Megalodon shark that lived around 23 to 3.6 million years ago vs. a modern-day Great White. pic.twitter.com/lqLnLRMJkV
— History Defined (@historydefined) May 14, 2022
It is not known why the fearsome beast went extinct around 3 million years ago, but some experts believe it may be because it relied on eating prey the size of whales to maintain itself, which became too difficult for the species to survive, particularly as it shared its food source with other sea predators like the Great White.
The British Natural History Museum says the discovery of megalodon (meaning ‘big tooth’) teeth in Britain is “extremely rare”, although not completely unheard of. Most finds are in North America or in in-land Peru or Chile in the desert, where many other fossils of Jurassic sea-creatures are found.
TV personality, scientist and author Ben Garrod said the discovery of the tooth in Britain was very exciting, especially as the example Sammy had found was so well preserved that even the enamel inside the tooth was intact.
Garrod said that he had searched for a megalodon tooth all his life but was never able to get his hands on one. He added that only 2 or 3 had ever been found in Britain and never one that wasn’t very badly eroded.