Giant Megalodon Tooth Found by Boy, 6, in 'Amazing' Discovery

A six-year-old boy has discovered a rare tooth of a megalodon—the largest shark that ever lived.

Sammy Shelton, from the village of Bradwell, spotted the fossilized tooth while walking with his dad on Bawdsey Beach in the county of Suffolk—located in the southeast of the U.K.—the Great Yarmouth Mercury reported.

The beach is popular with fossil hunters, some of whom explained to the family how significant the find was.

"We knew what it was but not how rare it was," the boy's father, Peter Shelton, told the Mercury. "One of the chaps seemed to be an authority and said he had been looking for fossils for years and years and never found one of that size and complete."

Reconstruction of megalodon teeth
Stock image showing a reconstruction of a megalodon jaw with teeth. A six-year-old boy discovered a megalodon tooth in England. iStock

Megalodon (Otodus megalodon) is a shark species that is thought to have became extinct around 3.6 million years ago. The earliest remains of this species date back to more than 20 million years ago.

The shark is considered to be one of the largest and most powerful predators ever to have lived, with some estimates suggesting that it could have grown to between roughly 50 feet and 60 feet in length, according to the Natural History Museum in London.

Almost all the known remains of this giant predator are teeth—the hardest part of a shark's skeleton. While shark teeth can fossilize relatively easily, the rest of the skeleton—which is made from softer cartilage and soft tissue—is preserved only in very rare cases.

Given that sharks produce and shed thousands of teeth throughout their lifetime and the fact that the species was once found all over the globe, fossilized teeth from this shark are relatively common in many parts of the world, including off the east coast of North America.

In the U.K. however, megalodon teeth are very rare and tend to be of poor quality, according to Britain's Natural History Museum.

Evolutionary biologist, broadcaster and author Ben Garrod, described the six-year-old boy's find as "amazing," telling the Mercury that only one or two megalodon teeth are found on British shores every year.

Garrod said it was a "once-in-a-lifetime" discovery, noting that the enamel and root of the tooth were still visible.

"I have looked for one since I was Sammy's age and never found one," he said.

"They are found all over the world but we do not often find them in the U.K. It is a really unusual discovery and usually they are much more heavily eroded than this one. It's a really nice one for a British one."

"He is handling the tooth of the largest ever predatory shark and one that will be of interest to the whole palaeontology community."