Travel to Venice Beach Florida to find Fossil Shark Teeth:
Including the Huge Megalodon Shark!
~ 23 - 5 Million Years Old
Miocene to Early Pliocene
Hawthorn Group, Peace River Formation, Bone Valley Member (Formerly Bone Valley Formation)
View of the beach from the Venice Fishing Pier with a Heron. The beach around the Pier is a good place to look for Fossil Shark Teeth.
View of the beach from the Venice Fishing Pier with a Heron. A fossil shark tooth partly buried in the sand at Venice Beach. All those tiny black dots are phosphate granules. That's a good sign fossil shark teeth are around.
Diving off Venice Beach for Fossil Megalodon Shark Teeth. Here, Two Encrusted Ones Are Found.
Sample of some fossils one can find at Venice. Included are Fossil Shark Teeth - including Megalodon, a Ray Plate, Dugong Rib sections, Whale Jaw sections, Early Horse Teeth, and non-fossil WWII bullets.
This is a short video showing a compilation of dives off Venice Beach
Why Are There Fossils Here? About the Geology of Florida: Peace River Formation and Pleistocene Fossil Origins
So, how did Venice, Florida become the "Shark Tooth Capital of the World"???
Let's start in the Cretaceous around 50 million years ago, when high sea levels caused Florida to be submerged.
Florida stayed submerged for many millions of years. During this time at the bottom of the ocean, Layers of limestone
accumulated on the sea floor, creating the "bed rock" of Florida.
Starting in the Oligocene, about 30 million years ago, the global climate cooled, and sea levels began to drop. An island of limestone emerged in north central Florida called Orange Island. This was the first appearance of today's Florida. Rains eroded the porous limestone, creating the cave systems and sink holes common to Florida.
Jumping ahead to 20 million years ago, into the next Epoch, the Miocene, tectonic activity deep beneath the Earth's surface caused uplifting around Florida. Orange Island slowly grew in size as it was raised from the ocean. Although the sea levels were in constant flux during the Miocene, Florida started to get its modern appearance. During this time land animals roamed central Florida, while a very shallow sea covered the coastal areas. At this time nutrient rich deposits washing from the Appalachia mountain building event created heavy sediment laden and nutrient rich waters. These sediments sank to the bottom entombing dead marine animals, countless teeth from sharks (including the Megalodon Sharks), and also land animals when the sea levels would rise. This trend continued until the Early Pliocene, about 5 million years ago. Today the sediments form the phosphate rich formations, including the Peace River Formation. This formation is mostly underground, but rivers, such as the Peace River, expose this formation. Also just off the beach near Venice, this formation is exposed. Fossils from this formation weather out and wash ashore in the Venice area.
Besides for the Peace River fossils, there are also fossils from the Pleistocene. During the Pleistocene, from 2.5 million until about 11,000 years ago the Earth was (and still is) in constant glaciations events. During glacial periods, the sea levels would drop, and Florida's land would double in size. Ice Age animals lived here including Mammoths, Dire Wolves, Glyptodonts, Horses, and Giant Ground Sloths. During interglacial periods, the sea levels would rise, covering much of Florida. Sediments would bury and preserve the remains of these Ice Age animals.
So, today, one can find a variety of fossils, from Miocene and Pliocene to Pleistocene fossils all intermixed by erosion. Venice Beach is a wonderful place to search for these fossils. The shark teeth are so numerous because they are very dense and fossilize easily. Also, sharks constantly lose and replace teeth. Over a lifetime, just one shark can lose over 10,000 teeth. That's allot of teeth!
Left Image: Florida in the Oligocene, showing the emergence of Orange Island.
Center Image: Florida in the Early Miocene, during the Miocene uplift event.
Right Image: Florida in the Pleistocene during maximum glaciation/low sea level. (Images: Public Domain)
The following book: Geologic History of Florida: Major Events that Formed the Sunshine State is a great book filled with lots of illustrations. It covers the entire geologic history of Florida. It starts with Pangea and goes until the formation of the Florida Keys. Check it out if your an avid amateur paleontologist in Florida!
Locations: Where in Venice to Find Shark Teeth and How To find the Fossils
Google Map of the Venice, Florida Area
The fossils at Venice Beach wash onto the beach from the offshore Peace River Formation. Venice beach is a great place to take your family fossil hunting. There are virtually no dangers like many other fossil locations. They will be as safe there as any other beach. If you want to travel to Venice, the "Shark Tooth Capital of the World" and look for shark teeth, here are some search tips and locations.
Before you Begin
Before you begin your hunt for fossil shark teeth, I would recommend first going to "Sea Pleasures and Treasures" right on the main drag at 255 W Venice Ave. This beach gift shop has a really nice display of megalodon shark teeth and all the other fossils found around Venice. It's always good to see what you will be searching for before you start!
When to Go
You can shark tooth hunt any time of the year! If you are planning on diving, the visibility is reduced in the summer,
and often in the spring when there are lots of storms.
Besides for the time of year, you want to look for sharks teeth at Low Tide. During high tide, most of the fossils will be underwater.
The absolute best time to search the beach for fossil shark teeth is a morning low tide after a storm... The morning because there have been less people looking, and after a storm because the wave action kicks up the fossils.
How to Look for Fossils
If you are beachcombing, all you have to do is look at the tidal line (where all the debris is), shark teeth will be mixed in with the seashells. Also, look where the waves are hitting the beach. Shark teeth are often washing back and forth in the waves. Don't expect to see dozens of shark teeth washing around. It takes some time to find them. But if you are diligent, you can find dozens of teeth!
You can find sharks teeth with no equipment at all. However, many people have better luck by sifting the sand and shells.
If you want to sift for sharks teeth, you want the sifter screen to be no larger than 1/4".
Papa's Bait Shop rents sifters for a very small fee. They are on the Venice Fishing Pier. The entrance is at Sharky's restaurant.
10" Shark Tooth Sifter: by Tri Star This is a sifter designed specifically for shark tooth sifting! It's easier to use than your standard sifting rake. There are three sizes. I like the 10" size. The 7" Shark Tooth Sifter is great for kids and the most popular. They are all lightweight and easy to use. These are great for beach combing or sifting along rivers.
Another cool thing about these sifters is they are made by a local family owned shop in Venice Florida called Tri Star Manufacturing.
Shark Tooth Seashell Floating Sieve Sifter This is a sifter designed for shark tooth sifting. The nice thing about the sifter is that it floats! Floating sifters are a BIG help for sifting along coastal areas and rivers, like Venice or the Peace River! This one is 15" x 15" and has the recommended 1/4" mesh and a rope for easier handling. It's also made in the U.S.A.
Snappy Buddy This is just fun! I know you can use a regular plastic jar or bag to place the fossils in that you find, but this one has a graphic of a megalodon jaw on it! For the cheap price, it's worth the upgrade! It also snaps on to any sifter or rake.
Strangely, Venice Beach proper, the one at the end of the street in Downtown Venice is not a good place to look for sharks teeth! The city
has pumped sand onto the beach to prevent it from eroding. Unfortunately, this caused the fossils to become buried.
To look for shark teeth fossils, you want to head slightly south to 1. Venice Fishing Pier, 2. Caspersen Beach, or 3. Manasota Beach. If you are a diver, you can 4. Dive off the beach:
The Venice Fishing Pier is at 1600 Harbor Dr. S., Venice, FL. It's at Sharky's Restaurant.
The beach around the pier still has fossils from the offshore formation washing up.
You will notice the sand has many black granules in it. This is phosphate grains from the formation, shark teeth are found where you see these little black grains.
Here is the website for the Venice Fishing Pier.
Slightly further south at the end of Harbor Dr, Englewood, Venice, FL is Caspersen beach.
This is a scenic park with a beach facility, scenic nature trails, picnic areas, and, of course, a beach. The beach is more rocky, so less swimmers and sunbathers go here, but the fossils like to hide around the rocks. This is an excellent spot to fossil shark tooth hunt.
Just like at the Venice Fishing Pier, you will see tons of tiny black phosphate granules in the sand that come from the offshore formation. Sift away!
This beach is a few miles south of Caspersen beach. It's at the end of Manasota Beach Road. The address is: 8570 Manasota Key Road, Manasota Key, FL
This scenic beach has a beach facility and a boardwalk to get to the beach. Just like the other beaches, fossils can be found washing in the surf, and in the tide line. One fun thing at this beach is the concrete walkway has fossil shark teeth embedded in it!
Since the Peace River Formation is just off the shore (around 1/2 mile), the best way to find the larger fossils,
such as megalodon shark teeth, is diving!
Also, fossils aside, it's a really nice dive. The visibility is often 10 feet or so, the depth is shallow at 25-35 feet (lots of bottom time), the water is warm, and you will see tons of sea life!
There are a few ways to dive, you can either do a shore dive or dive off a boat:
You can do a shore dive from the beach. This method has drawbacks. The Peace River Formation, the "Boneyard" is about 1/2 to 1 mile off the beach. That's a huge swim, and with boat traffic, it's downright dangerous. If you dive closer to the beach, you'll still start to find larger fossils that didn't wash ashore, but because of the wave action, the visiblility is very poor.
I recommend diving from a boat off shore. If you don't have a boat, or don't know a buddy with a boat, there are plenty of charters that will take you. Each charter does a 2 tank dive either off Venice, or further south near Caspersen. These charters drop you right on top of the "Boneyard" Remember, even though you are diving for fossils, it is still hit or miss. Sometimes you may find very little, other times you'll hit the mother load!
Below are a few of the charters:
1. Aristakat Charters
This is the charter I used. It was a wonderful experience. Captain Jamie and Lori are really nice. They take a maximum of 6 people, which is smaller than some other charters. This means you get there faster and search with less people on the bottom.
2. Man Overboard Charters
This charter also holds up to 6 divers. I have not used this one, but it has gotten good reviews from people who have. The reason I didn't use this charter is you pay for the whole boat and there were only 2 of us diving. Not knowing the total number of divers and therefore the total cost, it was just easier to set up the dives with Aristakat.
3. Florida West Scuba and Charters
This charter is a bit larger and holds up to 12 divers. The larger size is the reason I did not pick this charter. However, this charter offers 3 tank combination dives, where you see a ledge, artificial reef, and shark tooth dive. So if you want to do a day of diving and not just look for shark teeth, this may be for you.
Identification of Venice Beach Fossils:
Below are images of common fossils found in the Peace River Formation (Bone Valley Member):
Common Fossil Shark Teeth of Venice Beach Florida:
Common Fossil Shark Teeth Identification for Venice Beach, Florida
If you dive, you will also find tons of very solid and robust Dugong rib sections. They are incredibly dense and survive fossilization very well. Below are images of a Dugong skeleton and a skull if you are wondering what whole ribs and other bones would look like.
Skeleton of a Dugon on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in D.C. Notice the robust ribs.
Closeup of a skull of a Dugong. This one is at the London Museum of Natural History.
Additional Information for Fossil Hunting at Venice
When diving for fossil shark teeth, the fossils usually have coral, calcite, and barnacles encrusting them. The above image shows some completely encrusted shark teeth. To remove the encrusted coral, simply soak in vinegar. You can use half watr and half viniger. If it doesn't completely come off overnight, simply soak them in another batch. Don't worry, this will not damage the fossils in any way.
When diving or beach combing, occasionally you will come across an old .50 caliber piece of cartridge or a bullet. In
the above picture, one of them has a "42" stamp, meaning it's from 1942. The other one is too corroded to tell.
The waters around Venice are full of these bullets and cartridges. During WWII Venice had an Air Force training base, where pilots would train before being deployed.
Venice has a Shark's Tooth Festival for a weekend every April.
Fossil collectors and vendors from all around show up for this fossil filled weekend. There are also food vendors, artists, musicians, and activities all weekend. For more information go to the official Shark Tooth Festival page.
In order to fossil hunt vertebrates on state land in Florida, you must have a Fossil Permit. Fossil Shark teeth are specifically
excluded, so you DO NOT need a permit to collect fossil shark teeth.
Anyone can apply for the permit. Additional information and the permit from the FLMNH is here.
Besides for Shark Tooth Hunting, there are many other attractions in Florida. Although you have a chance of seeing Manatees in Venice (mainly at the inlets),
North of Venice at Crystal River is one of the best places in the world to view Manatees. There are Manatee tour operators that will
allow you to safely and legally swim with Manatees. If you are traveling, you can use the beautiful town of Venice as your home
base and make a day trip to Crystal River.
Recommended Books about Venice Fossils
Hunting Fossil Shark Teeth In Venice, Florida: The Complete Guide: On The Beach, SCUBA Diving, and Inland
This compact book is a great read for anyone interested in collecting fossil shark teeth in Venice. It gives tons of information and tips for beginning collectors, the reason why fossils are there, and identification. It's a great resource book.
Fossiling in Florida: A Guide for Diggers and Divers
This book is from Mark Renz, the author of the Megalodon book. It mainly concentrates on the Pleistocene fauna, such as the fossils found at Peace River.
This book is, again, a great resource book. It has a 34 page identification section in it!
Vertebrate fossils: A neophyte's guide
This book is only for the seasoned collector of the Pliocene and Pleistocene fossils of Florida. It has 100's of images of mammal bones and teeth from mainly the Pleistocene. This book can help you identify all of your fossil bone and teeth found in Florida. There are numerous comparisons of Bison, Camel, all the different Horse, Tapir, Bison, Giant Sloth, Dire Wolf, Dugong, teeth and many more!
Florida's Living Beaches: A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber
By: Blair Witherington
Florida's Living Beaches is a guide to the natural history of Florida beaches. This is a comprehensive guide with descriptions and color images of 822 items you can find on the beach, from shells, coral, beach animals, beach plants, minerals, and even manmade objects. It's a great book in terms of BOTH quality and quantity. The reviews on this book are excellent!
These are Authentic Megalodon teeth sold by Fossil Era , a very reputable fossil dealer (that I personally know) who turned his fossil passion into a business. These Megalodon teeth come in all sizes and prices, from small and inexpensive 2 and 3" teeth to muesum quality 6+" teeth. Each tooth has a detailed descriptions and images that include its collecting location and formation. If you are looking for a megalodon tooth, browse through these selections!