A fossil hunter has found several huge teeth from the extinct megalodon—the largest shark that ever lived—in North Carolina.
Jonathan Valentine, who runs the Digging Science website, said in a YouTube video that his haul included a tooth that was 6 inches long and another that was 5.5 inches.
Megalodon teeth can be up to 7 inches, although fossil finds usually measure between 3 and 5 inches, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The megalodon is thought to have become extinct around 3.6 million years ago. The earliest remains of the shark, considered one of the largest and most powerful predators to have lived, date back more than 20 million years.
The largest megalodon could have measured 50 to 60 feet in length, according to the Natural History Museum in London. By comparison, the largest recorded great white sharks are around 20 feet.
On his North Carolina trip, Valentine explored embayments—recesses in coastlines that form bays—that used to be deep water environments millions of years ago. “Huge” megalodon teeth can be found in these embayments, he said.
“So, Florida—where I typically explore for megalodon teeth and other Ice Age fossils—is an area that was shallow during the Miocene [epoch] when megalodon was around,” Valentine said in the YouTube video, which was posted on August 14.
“It was a nursery, so big female megalodons would come in, have their babies. Those babies would have a variety of different foods to eat and they wouldn’t have to worry about other deep water predators. They would be able to chill out, grow big enough and then go out into the open ocean.”
By contrast, the megalodon would go to the North Carolina deep water environments to hunt whales.
“[This area] doesn’t have as many shark teeth as you would find, say, in Florida … but you can find really cool whale fossils and when you find megalodon teeth they tend to be big.”
Valentine found his first megalodon tooth of the dive after just 10 minutes. “That thing is insane, that’s a big tooth, ” he said. “Wow, that’s a pretty good start to this trip.”
He later discovered an ever bigger one. “Holy s***, that’s a big tooth,” he said. “I am rightly freaking out about this tooth. It might be 6 inches.”
Valentine also found teeth of auriculatus—an extinct ancestor of megalodon that may be 30 to 40 million years old—and several “massive” whale vertebrae.
He discovered teeth from a great white shark and, at one point in the video, held one up next to a megalodon tooth to show the disparity.
“That is not a tiny great white, that is a full-grown adult compared to a full-grown megalodon,” he said. “The size difference between these two sharks is just hard to believe.”