Molly Sampson, nine, has been looking for teeth in the water since she could walk. She’s discovered over 400 shark teeth in her short life, some so small that a magnifying glass is required to identify them, and the largest measuring an inch or two—until now.
Bruce, Molly’s father, grew up on the bay in Calvert County, Maryland, and has been hunting for fossils at Scientists Cliffs since he was a child. For decades, Bruce has wanted to find a “meg”—a large tooth from a megalodon, a massive prehistoric shark the size of a bus that scientists estimate could have eaten a killer whale in five bites.
Sometimes our dreams come true through our children, which is exactly what happened on Christmas Day, 2022, when the Sampson family went fossil hunting.
Molly awoke that morning eager to put on her new insulated chest waders—the only thing she and her older sister Natalie really wanted for Christmas, according to their mother—so she could go shark tooth hunting with her father and sister in the bay. It’s something the family has done countless times, but this time was different.
“I’m on the hunt for a meg!” Molly declared as they drove to the cliffs.
They took to the water in 10-degree wind chills, spreading out to search in their respective areas. Molly emerged 20 minutes later with a shriek—and a tooth the size of her hand. “Look what I discovered!” she exclaimed.
Molly’s mother, Alicia, claims she spoke the word “meg” into existence that morning.
“She kept asking herself in her head, ‘Am I dreaming?'” Alicia informs Upworthy. “She didn’t believe it was true. She insisted on saying she couldn’t believe it.”
Bruce took a picture of Molly and her incredible discovery and texted it to Alicia, who had stayed at home to avoid the cold weather. (A decision she later regretted after seeing the joy on her daughter’s face as she held her prize.)
Molly explained to her mother that she had to dive in and get her arms wet in order to reach the 5-inch tooth, but it was worth it.
Even for experienced fossil hunters, such a find is unusual. Megalodon literally means “giant tooth,” and fossils discovered so far have been dated between 23 million and 2.6 million years ago.
According to Stephen Godfrey, curator of paleontology at the Calvert Marine Museum, the tooth was from the left side of a megalodon’s upper jaw and the creature would have been between 45 and 50 feet long—roughly the length of a humpback whale.
Molly brought her tooth to the Calvert Marine Museum’s paleontology department, but she gets to keep it in her own collection at home, according to the museum’s Facebook post.
“My husband is going to make her a shadow box so she can display it safely,” Alicia says. “I’m sure she’ll keep this tooth forever. It’s priceless to her—and to us. The joy and excitement it has brought her are priceless.”
Molly has stated that she wants to dig for fossils when she grows up, and she’s certainly getting a head start. She and Natalie have even started their own Instagram page, “Fossil Girls,” to share their passion for fossil hunting.
Congratulations on your incredible find, kiddo. Good luck, Sampson family!