Fossil hunting can be a test of endurance, requiring hours of patient observation as you scan the beach or waterbed for signs of ancient life. However, one such scavenger hunt had a rather more high-octane ending as a man's trip in search of a megalodon tooth resulted in his head getting bitten by an alligator.
The events unfolded as Jeffrey Heim went diving in the Myakka River, Florida, looking for fossils of prehistoric sharks. Unfortunately, May to June is mating season for alligators in the area, and it seems one amorous reptile wasn’t on board with the intrusion.
"I get bit and pulled and what felt like a boat hitting me with its full force," Heim told Bay News 9. "I thought I was going to die right there."
A report from WFTS-TV revealed that Heim’s injuries included a skull fracture and required 34 staples.
“Hey guys just wanted to let you know I’m doing alright,” said Heim in a video shared on Twitter. “Just really, really wanted a megalodon tooth. [I’m] gonna be okay.”
Heim has since returned to the scene of the grisly run-in, where a fellow fossil enthusiast has begun searching for the GoPro that was lost in the attack. While he appears in good spirits in a video posted to Instagram, a quick whip-round of his skull reveals the extent of his injuries from his head’s brief foray into the jaws of an alligator.
The Myakka River in Florida is indeed home to megalodon teeth, owing to the fact that when they swum the oceans the region was underwater. Hunting for these treasured remains is legal (with the appropriate permit or private land ownership) but the Florida Statute 1004.57 states that all vertebrate fossils found on land owned or leased by the state are to be put forward to the Florida Museum of Natural History. The statute aims to help paleontologists learn more about the range and distribution of the state’s fossil animals without sapping the region of this non-renewable part of Florida’s heritage.
It’s easy to see why megalodon teeth have become such a popular souvenir of ancient Earth, being so enormous in size as the gnashers of the largest fish ever to swim in the sea. A study published in 2020 cracked the code as to the true size of the mighty megalodon, which they predicted was 16 meters (52 feet) long with fins the size of an adult human.
While hunting down the fossilized teeth of one of Earth’s most fearsome predators might be alluring, it’s best to check there aren’t any extant predators in the area first…