It’s like a treasure hunt- looking for gold that’s actually black.
“The bones, the shark teeth, and the mammal teeth that get here on Folly…they’re going to be solid black, as black as charcoal,” says Ashby Gale, paleontologist and owner of Charleston Fossil Adventures.
The characteristic black color is courtesy of phosphate, which also ties into one of the most well known roads in North Charleston.
Alongside the color, fossilization by phosphate gives them plenty of hardiness as teeth are much older than you might think.
“The modern teeth out here on the beach are so rare because there’s a lot of organisms out in the ocean that love to eat away at things made of calcium,” says Gale. “That’s why if you look at a lot of the shell fragments out here. they’re going to be riddled with holes.”
Most modern shark teeth fall to the same fate, but that’s not the case for the fossilized teeth and bones of long extinct animals dating back thousands, even millions of years! They’re remarkably abundant in the Lowcountry, especially at Folly, which up until recently wasn’t the best place to find fossils.