Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wild Wildlife: Ancient Sharks Haunt the Potomac

In August, my goddessmother took my partner and me to a few state parks in nearby Maryland. As we explored the last one, Purse State Park—which consists of a trail through the woods down to the sandy shore of the Potomac—we encountered some other park-goers heading back up the trail. One of them handed my partner a Ziploc bag with a bunch of little shark teeth at the bottom, telling her, “They’re easy to find in the sand here, or if you turn some rocks and shells over.”

I was quite skeptical of this assertion, especially since we didn’t see any such teeth ourselves; I wondered if maybe these people went around duping visitors every weekend, carrying around pre-bought bundles of fossilized sharks’ teeth and handing them out, explaining innocently that they could be found just over by this tree or just under this pile of driftwood—and then chuckling evilly to themselves as the credulous vacationers set off on a wild goose chase.

However, it turns out that there really are fossilized sharks’ teeth to be found on the banks of the Potomac. Apparently sand tiger sharks and mackerel sharks frequented the region during the Paleocene Era, and a number of them left their teeth behind. (They probably left their bodies, too, but since those are pretty much all cartilage, I don’t think there’s much else to remember them by.)

So far, only fossil sharks occupy that portion of the Potomac, but I wonder if the eight-foot bull shark that was found last month at the mouth of the Potomac (in Cornfield Harbor; see this link for more details) was just heading upstream to do some genealogical research.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}

1 comment:

Anca said...

Your comment is hilarious.

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