Take the family on a fossil hunt

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Andrew Province searching for sharks teethBy Anne Province


I will never forget the big smile on my son's face when he came running to show me treasure he'd found while fossil hunting at Brownies Beach a few years ago. He and his friend were breathless with excitement over the large shark's tooth they found on the shoreline.


Searching for shark teeth and other fossils along the Chesapeake Bay is a summertime ritual for my family. We patiently sift through handfuls of pebbles and sand, competing to find the largest tooth. We've also found ray teeth, a fragment of sharks' vertebrae and colorful glass beads over the years, and we keep all the treasures in a plastic tackle box. But the shark teeth hold the wow factor for us and keep us coming back time and time again.


We are lucky enough to live close to the Chesapeake Bay, which is an area chock full of fossils, and it doesn't take a paleontologist to find them. All you need is a keen eye, a sense of adventure, a map and some other essentials, and you're on your way to finding fossils.

Andrew and Claire Province hunt for fossils


Mike Ellwood, the president of the Calvert Marine Museum Fossil Club explains that our area is a hotbed of fossils because it was completely under water between 10 and 16 million years ago during a time period known as the Miocene Epoch. A wide variety of animals died and sank to the bottom of the sea, fossilizing over time. As time passed, the sea receded and exposed cliffs that continue to reveal fossils today.


The most common fossil to find is a shark's tooth, but you can also find dolphin remains and whale bones, according to Ellwood.


"We are often finding new and very rare specimens," Ellwood says. "This spring, a teenager saw a bone sticking out of the clay, notified the Calvert Marine Museum and got to help the professionals excavate what turned out to be a very rare dolphin skull."


Now that you know there are fossils all around us, grab the kids and get ready to dig. Here are five cool sites to start fossil hunting in our area.

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