Maryland fourth grader Molly Sampson didn’t ask for “typical” Christmas gifts this year. Instead, the budding scientist requested cold-water waders so that she could hunt for fossils in nearby Chesapeake Bay.
Santa was able to provide the new gear, so Molly set out with her father and sister to their favorite spot on Calvert Beach on Christmas morning. Molly’s father, Bruce Sampson, has always been into fossil hunting, and his daughters share his passion for the hobby.
Molly has amassed an impressive collection of more than 40 items over the years. These fossils range from modern-day shark teeth to far older items, like megalodon teeth.
In case you’ve forgotten your grade school dinosaur lessons, megalodons were massive sharks that lived about 23 million years ago. Since shark teeth fall out periodically and are replaced with new ones, it’s not uncommon to find shark and even megalodon teeth in fossil-rich areas like the Chesapeake Bay. On average, amateur fossil hunters discover about 100 megalodon teeth in this location each year.
Molly herself has found megalodon teeth before, but on this day, she found one of the largest ones ever discovered. She was standing in knee-deep water when she first saw the tooth.
“I saw something big, and it looked like a shark tooth,” she recalled. “We were about knee deep in the water.”
Molly reached for the tooth, but it was so big she struggled to pluck it from the water. She felt “amazed” when she finally pulled it above the water and saw its size.
The megalodon tooth is about 5 inches long, not too much shorter than the longest one ever found, which is 7 inches. Stephen Godfrey, the paleontology curator at Calvert Marine Museum, confirmed its authenticity and says it’s a very special find for any scientist, much less a child of just 9 years old.
“There are people that can spend a lifetime and not find a tooth the size Molly found,” he said, adding, “This is like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of find.”
Experts estimate that the megalodon that lost this tooth millions of years ago was between 45 and 50 feet long!
Now that the marine museum has confirmed Molly’s discovery, she’s more excited than ever to pursue a career in paleontology someday. Her mother, Alicia Sampson, says she hopes other girls will see Molly’s story and become inspired to get outdoors and study science, too.
“We really want to reach other kids and get them excited about like being outside,” said Alicia.
What an amazing thing to discover, especially on Christmas morning. We can’t imagine a nicer gift for this budding young scientist.
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