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Nine-Year-Old Finds Giant Shark Tooth

Nine-year-old Molly Sampson discovered the fossil of a shark tooth that’s bigger than her hand!
A young child stands in shallow water and holds up a large fossil of a shark tooth.
Alicia Sampson (, Instagram: @fossilgirls_md)
Molly Sampson shows off her discovery, a megalodon tooth fossil.

Molly Sampson has always loved fossils, especially fossils of shark teeth. In December 2022, Molly, who is 9, spotted one of the biggest shark tooth fossils you can find. The 5-inch (13-centimeter) tooth had once belonged to a giant shark species called megalodon. Megalodons lived millions of years ago. Today, megalodons are extinct, meaning they have all died out. 

Molly discovered the megalodon tooth on a beach in Maryland. She and her older sister were wading in the Chesapeake Bay and using tools called fossil sifters. With the sifters, they were able to sift through sand and see if there were any fossils in it. The sisters hoped to find shark teeth, but they had no idea what was waiting for them. Standing in water up to her knees, Molly spotted the amazingly large tooth.

“I went closer, and in my head, I was like, ‘Oh, my, that is the biggest tooth I’ve ever seen!’” Molly told National Public Radio (NPR). “I reached in and grabbed it, and dad said I was shrieking.”

About a week later, the family took the fossil to a museum. Experts at the museum studied the fossil and said Molly was right. It was a real megalodon tooth!

A display case shows many shark teeth of different sizes labeled by species.
Alicia Sampson (, Instagram: @fossilgirls_md)
So far, Molly has collected more than 400 shark teeth! This is just part of her collection.

Molly has been searching for fossils with her dad and sister since she was very young. She wants to be a paleontologist when she gets older. (A paleontologist is a scientist who studies fossils.) Her family records Molly and her sister’s discoveries on an Instagram account. They hope to inspire other kids to explore the outdoors.

At 9 years old, Molly has already done tons of exploring!


Black History Month

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February is Black History Month in the United States. Want to read more? Check out the January 31 edition of In the News!

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Fun Fact

Sand shark with teeth visible seen from below
© Bob/
This sand shark has a lot of teeth!
Sharks’ teeth often fall out. That’s no problem, though. Sharks have many rows of teeth. And they grow new teeth all their lives. When one tooth falls out, a new one takes its place!

Big Shark, Big Teeth

A woman stands in a megalodon jaw bone on the left and an illustration of megalodon with a length measurement of 55 feet is on the right.
Heritage Auctions/, © Herschel Hoffmeyer/, © zozulinskyi/; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Just how big was megalodon? This photo shows the size of its jaws.

The word megalodon means “giant tooth.” That’s a good name for a shark with such big teeth!

Big teeth usually belong to big animals that eat meat. Scientists know that megalodon was huge. It may have been the biggest predator ever to live in the sea! Megalodon probably hunted whales, sharks, seals, and fish.

What hunted megalodon? Nothing! If you were a sea animal millions of years ago, you didn’t mess with megalodon. Scientists say it was at the top of the food chain, meaning that it had no predators. 

Leftovers From the Past

Quadrant showing fossils of a fish, dinosaur eggs, a reptile, and a pterosaur.
© Marcos Souza, Nikolay Antonov, Chris Hill/, © Zens photo—Moment/Getty Images; Composite image Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
This image shows four fossils. Clockwise from top left, they are a fish, dinosaur eggs, a reptile, and an ancient flying reptile called a pterosaur.
Some fossils are millions of years old! What are fossils?
Learn more at Britannica School.
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Word of the Day


Part of speech:


: of, relating to, or existing in the time before people could write
Definitions provided by
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All of the words in the puzzle are related to fossils.
Can you find them?

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