Finding Fossils on Folly – A Science Moment


It’s like a treasure hunt – in search of gold which is actually black.

“The bones, shark teeth and mammal teeth that come here on Folly…

The characteristic black color is courtesy of Phosphate, which is also linked to one of North Charleston’s best-known roads.

In addition to the color, the phosphate fossilization gives them great resistance because the teeth are much older than you might think.

“A lot of people assume they’re on the beach collecting shark teeth that those teeth are from modern sharks. No. They’re teeth that are at least 10,000 years old.

ashby gale, paleontologist

“Modern teeth here on the beach are so rare because there are a lot of organisms in the ocean that love to eat away at things made of calcium,” Gale explains. “That’s why if you look at a lot of shell fragments here.” they are going to be riddled with holes.

Most modern shark teeth suffer the same fate, but the fossilized teeth and bones of animals that have been extinct for thousands, if not millions of years, do not! They are remarkably abundant in the Lowcountry, particularly at Folly, which until recently was not the best place to find fossils.

“Before 2014, I wouldn’t have run a tour on Folly at all. It was just barren sand. But in 2014, the Army Corps of Engineers completed a beach restoration project where they pumped sediment about 4 to 5 miles offshore. When they did that, they hit a gravel bar in Goose Creek Limestone and pumped all those fossils out onto the beach. “

While many specifically search for these coveted black triangles, a plethora of fossils can be found here.

Extinct species of whales. Dolphins. Porpoises. Giant sea turtles. Then there are all the animals that once walked on land that stretched for miles off what is now Folly Beach.

“During the Ice Age, we had mammoths, behemoths, saber-toothed cats, giant beavers, terrible wolves… all kinds of amazing animals walked here on Folly.”

Would I be able to find and identify their bone and tooth fragments in the sand?

Absolutely not.

I’ve been fooled by many look-alikes on the beach that I’ll cover in another Moment of Science, but I can say that Gale’s book, “A Beachcombers Guide to Fossils,” has been an incredible resource in determining whether or not , you hold an ancient fossil in your hand. His 6 years of working on it with his parents was well worth it and he comes highly recommended. Gale also runs sustainable fossil expeditions to Folly and across the Lowcountry – for more information and to book, visit the Charleston Fossil Adventures website.

Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson

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