A “treasure hunter at heart,” Captain Michael Nastasio is no stranger to the waters of Florida. Through all the wonders he’s found under the sea, however, one of his most recent discoveries topped them all: two 6-inch megalodon shark teeth, among the largest ever discovered.
Along with its thriving reptile population, Florida is also home to Venice Beach, the shark tooth capital of the world.
Millions of years ago, the Sunshine State wasn’t so sunny. Instead, it was entirely submerged by water housing countless species of sharks. Yes, sharks really are that old – they not only predate dinosaurs but trees as well!
Because of this, the waters off the coast of Venice hold a treasure trove of shark teeth and are among the best places to look for fossils. For the past 12 years, charter boat captain Michael Nastasio has taken full advantage of this ancient cache, spending “eight days a week” searching for hidden treasures.
And though he still appreciates each and every find, the pair of 6-inch megalodon teeth was undeniably among the most exciting. The first he found was 6 inches on the dot and broken at the top. Despite its flaws, however, it was still an astounding discovery.
“All of a sudden that tooth was just sitting there,” Nastasio told The State. “It was just staring at me like, ‘Hello.’ I could not believe it.”
Just when he thought the day couldn’t get any better, Nastasio discovered a second megalodon tooth. Unlike the first, this one was fully intact – and even larger at 6.25 inches. For reference, the largest ever found was just over 7 inches long.
“I was already on cloud nine,” the diver said. “So when I found the second one and it was complete, my mind was blown.”
How large was the megalodon shark with 6-inch teeth?
Though we have plenty of their teeth, megalodons largely remain a mystery, even among experts. A complete fossilized skeleton of the enormous shark has never been found. As such, scientists can only speculate on the size of a megalodon with 6-inch teeth.
One way they do so is by using the size of great white sharks as a comparison, as it’s believed the two are close relatives. With modern sharks, the larger the animal, the larger the teeth. Using this knowledge, experts can make an educated guess at the size of those no longer living.
“The tooth here looks to me to be an upper anterior tooth [near the front of the mouth],” explained Victor Perez, a shark fossil expert. “And so that 6.25-inch size probably translates to a shark that would’ve been at least 15 meters long, well over 50 feet.”
Emma Bernard, curator of the Fossil Fish section of the Natural History Museum in London, agreed with Perez’s assessment. “Based on the size of the tooth, it would have belonged to one of the larger megalodons,” she said. “Estimates have the largest megalodon at about 15 to possibly 18 meters in length. The 15-meter mark is the most appropriate.”
For comparison, the largest living animal is the blue whale, a marine mammal stretching a maximum confirmed length of nearly 100 feet. A 50-foot megalodon shark would be roughly the size of a humpback whale.
Megalodons went extinct some 3 and half million years ago, but their teeth give us a glimpse at their staggering size. “Just trying to imagine these animals being out there, it’s just so hard to wrap your head around it,” Nastasio said.
This article by Caitlin Berard was first published by The Outsider on 25 June 2023. Lead Image by Mark Kostich via Getty Images.
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