7-Year-old dino digger strikes rare fossil gold

Jesse digging with his grandfather, Barry

Seven-year-old Jesse might have been enjoying his summer off from school, but on July 13, he uncovered a big lesson on science and paleontology.

Jesse was pawing through the dirt of the fossil dig site at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham when all the sudden he hit something big: a symphesial cow shark tooth.

This type of fossil is considered to be extremely rare, said museum marketing director Taneka Bennett.

How rare exactly?

“The cow shark tooth is believed to be between 10 and 15 million years old,” said Bennett. “Finding one in such pristine conditions is particularly unlikely, let alone at all.”

Best of all, everything visitors find in the dig site is theirs to keep. Jesse’s mother Amanda Duncan made sure her son took his newfound treasure home to Havelock, N.C. When they got there, Duncan said she researched the fossil on internet paleontology forums.

A symphesial cow shark tooth (above) in such good condition is extremely rare

“I posted an image along with a description where the fossil was found and responses poured in,” she said. “One collector described the piece as the ‘Holy Grail’ of sharks teeth. “

Jesse was offered $400 by one collector for said Grail, but his mother said it is too important to Jesse’s growing up to be sold. Currently, it’s on display at the museum. When it finally comes home to Havelock, it will reside in Jesse’s safe deposit box.

Bennett said even though summer is the busy season for the dig site, she has noticed a boon in visitors coming to ask about their fossil finds in hopes that they are also as valuable.

Dirt in the dig site is imported from the Aurora phosphate mine in Beaufort County, N.C. It is filled with fossils estimated to be between five and 25 million years old.

At one point in prehistoric development, part of North Carolina was believed to be covered by water. Thus, the cow shark fossil might have come from that portion of the Atlantic Ocean.

A keepsake for his childhood

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