It’s hard imagine the Florida of millions of years ago until you’re walking on a beach and stumble upon an enormous prehistoric shark tooth. What once roamed these lands? Was Tyrannosaurus rex tromping through the woods hunting for prey while brachiosaurs munched leaves off nearby trees? Actually no, back then Florida was underwater.

Once Florida as we know it emerged from the receding waters about 25 million years ago it became inhabited by various types of creatures. I wasn’t kidding about those enormous shark teeth, there was Megalodon whose name literally means “giant tooth,” with teeth about seven inches long. Moving into the woods, there were giant sloths called Megatherium hanging about that happened to be bigger than Woolly Mammoths. Running free on the plains were horses ranging from the size of deer to the size of a modern Clydesdale. They would have had to outrun several types of large cats ranging from the lion-like Barbourofelis to the saber-toothed Smilodon (which would go so far as to pounce and prey on Woolly Mammoths).

So who knows someday as your standing on a riverbed you may reach down to find fossilized alligator poop or giant beaver tooth incisors. Here in Florida the chances of finding fish fossils are higher than finding those of a bird (as they’re more fragile). Most fossils will tend to be five to ten feet under the surface whether they be embedded in the sand at the beach or stuck in a river bed.

Make sure to research the laws regarding fossil hunting and purchase a yearly permit for five dollars as well. Know before going into the field that depending on where you find your fossil and its scientific significance your finding may be confiscated by the state. Not every type of fossil hunting is regulated; one may search for shark teeth and plant fossils without a permit.

Happy fossil hunting!


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