Shark teeth

Occasionally individual shark teeth are found washed up on the Victorian shore, both on exposed outer coastlines and sheltered beaches of the bays. However, rarely are they from living sharks. Most of these teeth have emerged from eroding coastal cliffs where they have been locked away as fossils for many millions of years. Rich fossil deposits are found in a number of coastal locations, like the cliffs at Black Rock within Port Phillip Bay. Historically, these regions represented shallow seas that broadly covered the margin of southern Australia.

Fossil tooth of the Great White Shark, Carcharodon megaolodon

Fossil tooth of the Great White Shark, Carcharodon megaolodon
Photographer: Rodney Start. Source: Museum Victoria

Although a wide variety of shark species lived in ancient seas and are represented in fossil deposits, many did not attain a great size and their small teeth can be easily overlooked. The most frequently encountered teeth come from two of the largest sharks of early seas, the massive Fossil Great White Shark, Carcharodon megaolodon, which may have attained 12 metres or more, and the somewhat smaller Fossil Mako Isurus hastalis. Teeth of the Great White have been found measuring more than 18 cm in length.

Fossil tooth of the Mako, Isurus hastalis

Fossil tooth of the Mako, Isurus hastalis
Photographer: Rodney Start. Source: Museum Victoria

Teeth of these two sharks differ in shape in the same way as do those of their living relatives. The now extinct Mako most likely fed on fish and squid which they swallowed whole, as reflected in their smooth edged, rather slender teeth, some having a slightly curved profile. In contrast, most teeth of the fossil Great White are broad and triangular, and have a finely serrated edge. Like those of their living relative the White Pointer, this form of tooth is handy for cutting slabs of flesh from substantial prey. The robust structure of fossil Great White teeth was capable of withstanding tremendous forces and support the theory that these sharks ambushed

large ancestors of modern day whales, disabling them with the shock of their initial thrust. The present day White Pointer, reaching about half the size of the extinct form, feeds regularly on seals that are more easily subdued.

Visitor Information

Fossil shark teeth from Victoria are exhibited in the Marine Fossil Drawers in the Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre.

Comments (10)

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christopher wells 31 March, 2010 18:40
hi i have found a shark tooth on mornington peninsula beach whilst wading waist deep can you identify it please if i send you a picture
Discovery Centre 1 April, 2010 11:57

Hi Christopher, we certainly can try to identify the tooth for you. Simply go to our identifications page to submit your images and query and please have a read of our identification guidelines before sending.

Maree O'Toole 11 May, 2010 16:24
Could you tell us the answer to how big sharks teeth grow for my son's school project?
Frank Tagliabue 2 April, 2011 19:20
Hi guys, my son James found a shark tooth of the beach at Port Campbell in Victoria years ago. It is dark purple/brown in colour, has smooth razor sharp edges and approx 12mm wide at the top and approx 16mm long. I'm wondering if it is a true fossil or a modern shark tooth? Cheers for now - Frank
Discovery Centre 5 April, 2011 16:23
Hi Frank, if you can send your enquiry plus images to our Ask the Experts Identifications page, we can confirm the identity of the teeth. 
paige 16 December, 2012 11:12
how big was the largest tooth
Discovery Centre 19 December, 2012 12:51
Hi Paige - one of the largest verified shark teeth known was found by Palaeontologist Peter Larson, which was over 18 cm long. You can read more on this specimen via the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research
carl o'cles 1 July, 2013 01:55
Nice shark teeth you have there. How common are fossils such as these in these areas? We are avid fossil hunters and always looking for new places to try out. A trip down under would be great by itself but if i could collect a reliable fossil site while out there it would be great!!!!
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kylie 31 January, 2014 05:03
Hi im thinking of going down to black rock and beaumaris to see if i can find some fossils of shark teeth can you give me some tips? And what tools will i need i know ill need gloves since shark teeth are extremely sharp. Thank you.
Zoe 10 December, 2015 02:50
I have just inherited a very large set of jaws - I'm not sure where they are from but they are old and big! I've read that selling them is illegal, but I know they have great value! Wondering where/what to do with them! Any ideas?