Durham shark tooth hunt yields gold

Apr. 20, 2013 @ 07:18 PM

Chance Roberts nearly fainted from joy when he struck gold Saturday.

The 11-year-old Louisburg resident hit pay dirt with his father during a fossil dig for sharks’ teeth at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham.

As they lifted a shovel of soil, there it was: a gold-painted shark’s tooth. But what made it so valuable is that it was Chance’s ticket to a tooth from a megalodon shark, one of the most powerful predators in history and the size of a school bus.

Chance waited on a bench with dilated pupils until a museum worker handed him his prize – a four-inch-wide tooth, perfectly intact.

“I want to die,” Chance said as he received his tooth. “Awesome. Thank you.”

Chance was the second person to snag a mega tooth. The first went to P.J. Jukic.

“We were enjoying a morning of uncovering marine fossils when P.J. spotted the golden shark’s tooth in our digging area and announced: ‘It’s gold!’ ” his father, Dan Jukic, said.

P.J. plans to put the tooth on the top shelf of his room.

Leslie Pepple, the museum’s communications manager, said the museum recently got 300 tons of fresh fossil material and added part of it to the dig site.

“It was so large that we had to transport it in a train,” she said. “Then the city helped transport it from the rail yard in dump trucks. The pile was the size of a house.”

The material is full of shark teeth, shark vertebrae, coral and fossilized shell imprints.

“It’s a great opportunity to get hands-on learning experience,” she said.

Members of the N.C. Fossil Club were on hand to help diggers identify what they unearthed.

One member was Gustavo Pierangelini, 37, who has been interested in fossils since he was a kid.

“I started collecting minerals at age 6,” he said. “I have a house full of stones.”

The Raleigh resident said he loves to dig up and research fossils, and digs like Saturday’s help children “understand how things change with time.”

One of the museum’s rangers, Ro Rode, helped oversee the dig.

“I love it out here,” she said. “The kids’ eyes just light up when they find something. And I like the idea that right under our feet, there’s so much history and science. It’s just really cool.”


Go and Do: The museum on Murray Avenue will hold more shark tooth hunts from noon to 5 p.m. today and weekends through May 5. For information, call the museum at 919-220-5429.