Avery Fauth found a megalodon shark tooth in the sand near North Topsail beach in North Carolina.
Prehistoric megalodon sharks have gone extinct more than 2 million years ago.
Middle School Girl Finds Megalodon Shark Tooth
The middle school girl, who was spending spring break with her family in Raleigh, said she was looking for shark tooth close to the ocean when she saw something buried in the sand. When she reached to dig the sand, she found the fossil.
"I was just like, 'is this a dream,' because I didn't believe I found it, and then I took it out and it was one," Fauth said.
Avery's father said he had been looking for megalodon shark tooth for over 20 years and the search made his daughters interested in the quest.
What Are Megalodons?
Megalodons or Otodus megalodon are often referred to as the largest sharks that ever lived. These marine creatures became extinct by the end of the Pliocene or some 2.6 million years ago when Earth entered a phase of global cooling.
These apex predators are so enormous, they dominated the oceans for millions of years. The megalodon was also the largest fish ever to exist with its length spanning between 15 and 18 meters or three times longer than the largest documented great white shark.
According to the Natural History Museum, the earliest megalodon fossils date to 20 million years ago. These sharks ate most likely large fishes, dolphins, and even humpback whales.
It had a much shorter nose compared to great white sharks, and a flatter, almost squashed jaw. Reconstructions of megalodons showed it probably had extra-long pectoral fins like the blue sharks of today.
These sharks adapted to the warm waters in tropical and subtropical locations. Megalodon teeth are so common, they have been found on every continent except Antarctica.
"We can find lots of their teeth off the east coast of North America, along the coasts and at the bottom of saltwater creeks and rivers of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida," said Emma Bernard, curator of fossil fish collection at the Natural History Museum.
Shark With Big Jaws And Giant Teeth
The previous scientific name of the megalodon is Carcharocles megalodon which means "giant tooth." It has an expansive jaw lined with 275 teeth, and big enough to swallow two adult people side by side. Its bite force is also said to be the most powerful at more than 100,000 Newtons.
Contrary to earlier research, the megalodons are not the ancestors of great white sharks. They are more similar to the blue sharks, and their oldest definitive ancestor is a 55-million-year-old shark known as Otodus obliquus.
"As we've found more and more fossils, we've realised that the ancestor to the great white shark lived alongside megalodon. Some scientists think they might even have been in competition with each other," Bernard said.
Discovery of shark teeth is common because sharks lose a set of teeth every one to two weeks. Approximately, they can have an equivalent of up to 40,000 teeth in their lifetime.