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Giant Sharks Once Roamed Robeson County

By Scott Bigelow

One of the newest acquisitions of the Robeson County History Museum is also the oldest.

Thanks to local collector Douglas Judd, the Museum has added to its existing collection of shark’s teeth that were loaned by Paul Valenti and the late Richard Stephens.

The new artifacts are not just any shark’s teeth but teeth from the mammoth Megalodon shark. The teeth are witness to a history of Robeson County that seems inconceivable.

Megalodon sharks roamed Robeson County between 2 and 24 million years ago. They are believed to be the largest fish ever, some growing to 60 feet.

The largest tooth ever found is 7 inches long. The largest tooth in the History Museum’s collection is a little shy of 5 inches, and there are several smaller examples.

The existence of such a large ocean going creature raises interesting questions. With a current elevation in Robeson County between 120 and 200 feet above sea level, how was it possible?

Children visiting the museum have offered interesting theories to explain shark’s teeth here. Did they swim up the Lumber River?

Because the teeth are most often found along the river, the children’s theory holds some water. The connection between the river and shark’s teeth is caused by water currents churning up earth to expose fossils.

The answer to the shark’s teeth riddle is that dramatic climate changes brought the oceans up to the Sandhills during the last warming era and miles away from the current beach during the ice age. It’s all about water captured and released from ice.

A world without ice in our future may cause the ocean to rise more than 200 feet obliterating Robeson County, according to some sources. During the last ice age, when ice covered much of North America (although not North Carolina), the oceans dropped 400 feet.

This is not a necessarily a case for global warming in our time. Warming and cooling of the planet is a complex story, manmade or no.

The story of the Megalodon shark’s demise is a mystery. Despite rumors and Hollywood fiction, there are no giant sharks feeding in the ocean today.

The asteroid that may have ended the reign of dinosaurs occurred long before the time of the Megalodon. Some scientists speculate that volcanic activity may have covered the Earth in clouds of ash that cooled the oceans beyond the Megalodon’s ability to survive.

Another theory speculates that great white sharks, the Megalodon’s nearest modern relative, killed off their giant kin.

All of this history stimulates the imagination of children and adults alike. The Megalodon teeth and other fossils may be viewed at the Museum on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon and on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.


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