Woman Finds Tooth of Megalodon, Biggest Shark to Ever Live, on South Carolina Beach: 'I Cannot Believe This'

A woman has discovered the tooth of a prehistoric megalodon—the biggest shark to ever live—while visiting a beach in South Carolina. Experts believe the specimen belonged to a predator that could have been 16ft long and lived up to 20 million years ago.

Missy Tracewell and her husband were on the Hunting Island barrier island when she spotted something poking out of the sand in a hole where her husband was "playing," she told McClatchy News.

"I pick it up, and I stand up, and I'm so shocked that I have it in my hand... that I dropped it on the sand," Tracewell said. "I'm screaming, and I'm just like a five-year-old, jumping up and down and I was crying, 'I cannot believe this. Oh my god I just found a megalodon tooth.'"

Tracewell snapped a photo of her discovery and shared in on her Facebook page, garnering more than 1,300 likes, and hundreds of excited comments.

She and her husband have chanced upon hundreds of shark teeth at beaches in South Carolina in the past, but she wrote beneath the image on Facebook: "Biggest one yet..."

The Friends of Hunting Island non-profit shared the image on Twitter.

Tracewell did not take the tooth to an expert to confirm what animal it came from, and the eye-opening find sparked debate on Facebook as to who once owned the craggy tooth.

Experts in natural history confirmed to Newsweek that it did indeed belong to a megalodon, meaning large tooth. The hulking apex predators inhabited warm and subtropical waters across the world between 3.6 to 20 million years ago, during the Miocene period, before going extinct. The biggest sharks to ever live, they measured up to 49 ft in some cases. That makes them three times longer than the biggest known great white shark.

Jack Cooper, a PhD student who studies sharks and megalodon at Swansea University in the U.K., told Newsweek the shape of the tooth "is a telltale sign of megalodon." Cooper said the creature was likely young when its tooth fell out.

Emma Bernard, a curator of fossil fish at the Natural History Museum in the U.K., told Newsweek it is difficult to calculate the size of an animal based on one tooth. But she estimated it was probably between 19 to 32 ft long.

"Megalodon ate cetaceans, fish and probably whatever it wanted to be honest based on the tooth shape and size," she said. That includes whales and even other sharks. With the jaws of adults filled with 275 enormous serrated teeth and spanning up to 11ft wide, it is thought that megalodons could have easily swallowed two adult humans side-by-side.

Commenting on Tracewell's find, Bernard said: "Often when people find them the tip of the tooth is broken or part of the root is broken off, so it is a nice find."

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A stock image shows the tooth of a megalodon dating back 45 million years. A woman in South Carolina discovered a megalodon tooth while on Hunting Island.