How to find shark teeth

There’s a knack to finding (fossilized) shark teeth at the beach, but anyone can learn it. Here’s what has worked for me over the years at Topsail Island, NC.


The best time to search for shark tooth fossils is at low tide, or just before max low tide. There are often other folks who look through shells for shark teeth, and low tide is when fresh shells and debris are first available. So this helps you get first shot at them. Also – low tide is when the most shells are visible.


Look for the largest concentrations of shells. It’s the easiest place to search and the most rewarding. I’ll walk a quarter mile in either direction of a beach access to find the biggest piles.

The perfect situation is a pile of shells that is just on the water line. It’s a little easier to see the teeth when they’re wet. More on that below. But this isn’t required.


Shark teeth fossils come in many colors, from black to dark gray to light gray to almost white. Sometimes they’re mahogany brown. BUT – most of the ones at Topsail will be obsidian black. Look through the shells and inspect anything that is really black. Dark shells will look black, but have a dusty finish like someone took sandpaper to them. Shark teeth will be shiny black – almost a wet black – in comparison. Here’s a nice article about the colors.


The teeth you’ll most often find will be more Y shaped than a strict triangle. There’s the gum line portion, which will be sponge-like and rounded, and then the enamel tooth part. It will be smooth, sometimes with striations down the length, and have a nice, sharp point. Sometimes the striations will have a little color — like gray or brown.

Check out these common shapes from my past adventures:



You can find piles and piles of teeth that are smaller than a centimeter square, but I bet you’ll find plenty that are larger. Wherever you find one good shark tooth, invest more time and you’ll often find more nearby.

And don’t feel bad if you don’t find any. Some years the pickings are slim to none and some years there’s a bounty.

Have fun and good luck!