A unique find for the Netherlands
At the 12th of march 2008 I went to my favorite fossil side, hoping to find some nice shark teeth. When I arrived at the spot, there were already some of my friends. When I talked to them, the first thing that they told me was that there weren’t coming a lot of shark teeth out of the pipe. The color of the water indeed didn’t looked that good. I’m searching at this side for about 10 years and I learned to read the water that is coming out of the pipe. The colors of the water are an indication for the depth that the barge is sucking the sand up. Every layer has it specific color. And I know which layers are holding shark teeth and which aren’t. But still I was here and I had the whole day off, so I decided to stay and make the best of it.
When putting my sift into the water I could hear the gravel falling down into it. This was not a good sign. Every now and then a tooth popped up, but it wasn’t great. Towards the end of the day, the barge started to suck up some sand from another depth. The color of the water was changing and also the material that came with it was changing.
The gravel disappeared, and instead of it there was a lot of fine material showing up. This material consisted out of several small pieces of shells and some organic material. Also there was a lot of muddy sand coming with it. In this material we normally find a lot of small shark teeth. They range in species from Lamna nasus, to small Cosmopolitodus hastalis and Notorynchus primigenius.
Also it is worthwhile to take this material back home and search threw it using a magnifying glass. There are a lot of very small shark and ray teeth in it, measuring from 0,5mm up to 1cm. The species you can find then are raja sp., pristiophiorus, Cetorhinus maximus, Cetorhinus parvus, raja clavata, squalus, squatina and several other fish teeth.
Throughout the rest of the day I managed to keep finding some teeth. Most of them being C. hastalis in the range up to 3 – 4 cm. But all in all it wasn’t a great day. At the end of the day after having a lot of talks with my friend I told them that I would finish this day with one more sift full of material. So I stood there for a while holding my sift in the water and hoping for this one very nice shark tooth to pop up. When I retrieved my sift from the water it was full of shell pieces and mud. But almost on top of material this strange tooth was laying. I never had seen one before, and so I didn’t recognize what it was. Also this tooth had a light grey, blue color which mostly indicates that it’s not that old. When I showed it to my friends, none of them knew what it was, and they all doubted if it was that old. But just like everything elses I’m finding at this location it went home with me. After doing some research, and posting some pictures of it on a Dutch fossil forum, someone pointed out to me that it could be a tooth from a Tapir.
Comparing my tooth with pictures of fossil Tapir tooth on the web, the similarity was striking. But not quit convinced I decided to mail some pictures to the museum of Natural History “Naturalis”. They have helped me before with some finds of me and I know some people over there. Their first response was that it probably was a Tapir tooth, but that the expert on it was not available for a few days. And if it was a Tapir tooth it would be a great find. After a few days I got a mail from John de Vos, the expert on fossils from Naturalis. He confirmed that it was a Tapir tooth, and that it was a unique find for the Netherlands. He invited me to come an visited him bringing the tooth with me. When I visited John, I brought with me some other fossils from this side to show to him. He gave every single one a brief look but was waiting for the Tapir tooth. When I showed it to him a went silence. For about two minutes, nobody said anything and I was wondering if it was a Tapir tooth, or that it just was one of those things. Then finally John sighed and said:”yes, it really is a Tapir tooth”. He looked at me a said that I still didn’t know how rare this was. He let me into a storage hall that was full with cardboard boxes. In every box there were laying some mammoth teeth. He told me that if any one showed him a mammoth tooth he was interested, but they already had a lot of them. Then he took me to another storage hall. Here we walked up to a small cardboard box. He told me that this was all they had about Tapirs in the Netherlands. In this box there were 9 replica teeth from a tapir found in 1930. The original ones are in the museum of natural History in Maastricht. These teeth are very worn down and in bad condition. At that point a started to realize how important this find was, and I also realized that it should be in a museum. So when I told John that I would give it at loan at Naturalis he got a smile on his face from ear to ear. He was very happy with my offer but told me to take it home first and show it to a lot of friends of mine. Now after almost two years the tooth is on loan at the museum of Naturalis were Reanne van Kleef is doing some research on it. When this research is finished I will do an update on this report.
In the middle John de Vos, on the right Reanne van Kleef and on the left myself handing over the tooth.