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Guide to Fossil Shark Teeth Hunting at Venice Beach


Fossil Shark Teeth

Venice Beach Florida Fossil Hunting Guide
venice weather information

Venice Beach Florida

"Shark Tooth Capital of the World"

~ 23 - 5 Million Years Old
Miocene to Early Pliocene
Hawthorn Group, Peace River Formation, Bone Valley Member (Formerly Bone Valley Formation)


This is a short video showing a compilation of dives off Venice Beach

View of the beach from the Venice Fishing Pier. 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. The beach around the Pier is a good place to look for Fossil Shark Teeth

A fossil shark tooth partly in the sand at Venice Beach

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.

Sample of some fossils one can find at Venice Beach

This is a sample of some of the fossils one can find at Venice. Included are Fossil Shark Teeth - including Megalodon teeth, a Ray Plate, Dugong Rib sections, Whale Jaw sections, Horse Teeth, and non-fossil WWII bullets.

Geology of Florida
Why Are There Fossils Here? Peace River Formation and Pleistocene Fossil Origins

So, how did Venice, Florida become the "Shark Tooth Capital of the World"??? It started in the Cretaceous around 50 million years ago, when high sea levels kept Florida 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. In 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. At 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!

Geologic maps of Florida showing the
uplift of Orange island and the Pleistocene glaciation

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.

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

Fossils at Venice Beach wash onto the beach from the offshore Peace River Formation. They can be found in the surf around the entire Venice area, north at Casey Key to south at Manasota Key.
Venice beach and the surrounding beaches are 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 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!

Recommended Equipment

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 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 easy handling. It's also made in the U.S.A.

Fossil Hunting Locations along Venice

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 because 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 either North to the less populated Casey Key, south to Manasota Key, or just walk down the beach to the Venice Fishing Pier... or Dive! Below, I list a few locations and give some Dive recommendations:

Venice Fishing Pier

Venice Fishing Pier is a good place to look for fossil shark teeth

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.

Good spots to sift are in the surf, where the waves break just in the water, and between the beach and the first sand bar, usually knee to waste deep in water.

MOST of the shark teeth are small (less than an inch in size), so look carefully!

Here is the website for the Venice Fishing Pier.

Caspersen Beach

caspersen Beach is another good place to look for fossil shark teeth

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.

Good spots to sift are in the surf, where the waves break just in the water, and between the beach and the first sand bar, usually knee to waste deep in water.
MOST of the shark teeth are small (less than an inch in size), so look carefully!

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!

Manasota Beach

Manasota Beach, showing shark teeth embedded walkway

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!

Good spots to sift are in the surf, where the waves break just in the water, and between the beach and the first sand bar, usually knee to waste deep in water.
MOST of the shark teeth are small (less than an inch in size), so look carefully!


Diving for fossil megalodon teeth in Venice, Florida

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:

Shore Dives

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.

Charter Dives

Diving with Aristakatcharters for megalodon teeth off of Venice Beach, Florida

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." 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:

Fossil Shark Teeth Identification of Venice Beach, Florida

Common Fossil Shark Teeth Identification for Venice Beach, Florida

Dugong Rib Fossils

Fossil Dugong Rib Sections

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. Below is a skeleton of of a Dugong from the Chartleston Museum. Notice the robust ribs.

Dugong Skeleton

Skeleton of a Dugon on display at The Charleston Museum. Notice the robust ribs.

Closeup of a skull of a Dugong.  This one is at the London Museum of Natural History.

Closeup of a skull of a Dugong. This one is at the London Museum of Natural History.

Additional Information for Fossil Hunting at Venice

Coral Encrusted Shark Teeth from Venice

Coral encrusted shark teeth

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 water and half vineger. If it doesn't completely dissolve overnight, simply soak them in another batch. Don't worry, this will not damage the fossils in any way.

50 caliber bullet and cartridge from Venice

50 caliber bullet and cartridge from Venice

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 Shark's Tooth Festival

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.

Fossil Hunting Permit

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.

Swimming with Manatees

Snorkeling with a Manatee in Crystal River, Florida

Snorkeling with a Manatee in Crystal River, Florida

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

Florida Fossil Shark Teeth Identification Guidebook
Want to identify all those shark teeth from Florida, this book contains fossil shark teeth pictures and descriptions of each fossil shark found in Florida.
It's a great resource book for fossil shark teeth.

The Fossil Vertebrates of Florida
From Richard Hulbert, this hardcover book gives a comprehensive review of the fossil vertebrates of Florida, It's full of illustrations to help one identify vertebrate bones from Florida. It's a really good reference guide if you collect fossils in Florida!

Florida Fossils for Kids
If you have a child that like fossils and wants to fossil hunt in Florida, this is THE book!
It's a very short book around 20 pages that concentrates on the most famous fossils found in the Peace River, including mastodon, giant ground sloths, and megalodon. It is geared toward getting children interested in Floridas rich fossil past and even includes coloring pages.

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!

Apparel: Megalodon T-Shirts from Megalodon Mad Gifts 4 U.
If you're looking for something uniquely MEGALODON, these guys have a bunch of cool shirts, hoodies, and other apparel! They come in a bunch of colors, styles, and sizes. There are enough designs for even the most discerning megalodon fanatic!

Get Your Very Own Megalodon Tooth:

These are Authentic Megalodon teeth sold by Fossil Era , a reputable fossil dealer (that I personally know) who turned his fossil passion into a business. His Megalodon teeth come in all sizes and prices, from small and inexpensive to large muesum quality 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!

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