Veteran Fossil Hunter, Age 9, Makes a Rare Find

Molly Sampson wades out and spots giant megalodon tooth
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2023 2:25 PM CST
Veteran Fossil Hunter, Age 9, Makes a Rare Find
This illustration provided by JJ Giraldo depicts a 52-foot Otodus megalodon shark predating on a 26-foot Balaenoptera whale between 5.4 and 2.4 million years ago.   (J. J. Giraldo via AP)

Molly Sampson has been searching for a giant megalodon tooth for eight of her nine years. "She's been shark tooth hunting since age 1 when she would crawl along the beach," said her mother, Alicia. When Molly opened the insulated wading boots that she'd asked for on Christmas morning—so she could step into the cold water to look for big teeth—she was ready. She struck out that day with her father and sister for Calvert Cliffs State Park in Maryland, WRC reports. Not 30 minutes into her search, standing knee-deep in the Chesapeake Bay, she spotted it. "I went closer, and in my head, I was like, 'Oh, my, that is the biggest tooth I've ever seen!'" Molly said this week, per NPR. "I reached in and grabbed it, and dad said I was shrieking."

At age 9, Molly had found a five-inch, 15 million-year-old megalodon tooth, the discovery of a lifetime. "I just saw the shape of it, and I know what the megalodon teeth look like," she said. Her collection includes more than 400 shark teeth, per USA Today. Molly said the size of the tooth indicates the size of the shark. "Every inch is 10 feet," she said. "So this is five inches, so it'd be 50 feet, [a] 50-foot shark." Her family took the fossil to the Calvert Marine Museum to be verified. "It's a spectacular specimen," a curator said.

Her father, Bruce, has been hunting fossils nearly all of his life, too, and he got the family, including Molly's older sister, Natalie, into it. Bruce Sampson shares the dream, but the largest tooth he's found is about 3 inches. His wife said it looks like a "baby tooth" by comparison. Molly, who's thinking about becoming a paleontologist, has added the tooth to her collection and might put it in a shadow box. The family said emails they've received indicate Molly's find has inspired other young people to get outside, put their waders on, and hunt fossils. (More megalodon stories.)

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