Molly Sampson, a nine-year-old 4th grader from Prince Frederick, Maryland, discovered the find of a lifetime while spending time at the Calvert Beach on Christmas morning.

This paleontologist in the making enjoys combing Maryland’s beaches for shark teeth because as she says, “They’re just cool because they’re really old.” Sweet Molly inherited her fascination with fossils from her dad. “She loves treasure hunting,” Molly’s mom, Alicia Sampson, said of her daughter.

Over the years, Molly has collected more than 400 fossilized shark teeth, but her recent find is so fascinating that the story of it vent viral in a matter of days. Namely, this fossil hunter found an enormous, 5-inch-long, chomper belonging to a megalodon, the largest shark to ever swim Earth’s oceans.

The family brought the colossal tooth to Stephen Godfrey, a paleontology curator at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, who verified that Molly’s extraordinary discovery was indeed from a megalodon. “Dr. Godfrey described to Molly that the shark would have been as large as a Greyhound bus,” Alicia recounted. “Since Molly wasn’t familiar with the size, she looked it up and was astounded.”

Reflecting on the moment she first laid eyes on the tooth, Molly recounted to NPR, “I approached closer, and in my mind, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s the largest tooth I’ve ever seen!’” She continued, “I reached out and grabbed it, and my dad mentioned that I was shrieking with excitement.”

Godfrey explained that the tooth discovered by Molly originated from the upper left jaw of a megalodon estimated to be around 45 to 50 feet in length, living approximately 15 million years ago. “These teeth evolved to enable the shark to slice through prey, akin to the feeding behavior of great white sharks,” he elaborated. “They would chomp on the carcass rather than swallow it whole.”

The term “Megalodon” originates from two Greek words meaning “giant tooth,” fittingly describing the massive teeth of the species. The tooth Molly unearthed is comparable in size to her hand.

With Molly’s tale gaining traction, her family saw an opportunity to inspire young children, including their daughter, to prioritize spending time outdoors.

“We’re passionate about encouraging other kids to embrace the outdoors,” Alicia expressed.

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