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Elana Rowlands, 10, discovers megalodon tooth at Bawdsey Beach, near Felixstowe





A 10-year-old girl with a passion for fossil hunting has described her excitement after a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ discovery on a Suffolk beach.

Elana Rowlands was with her family at Bawdsey Beach when she found a rare fossilised tooth – which would be at least three million years old.

The four-inch serrated tooth belonged to a megalodon – a giant shark which lurked in prehistoric waters.

Elana Rolands with her discovery at Bawdsey Beach. Picture: Ros Stephen
Elana Rolands with her discovery at Bawdsey Beach. Picture: Ros Stephen

Shark expert Charlie Underwood, from London’s Natural History Museum, said the fossil dated to the Late Miocene to Early Pliocene, meaning it could be up to six million years old.

Elana said friends and family were jealous of the find and she has now added it to her impressive fossil collection, which includes ammonites, trilobites, plesiosaur vertebrae, shark teeth and bivalves.

“When I realised what we’d found, I was over the moon. I had just been over to mum to show her this cool shell and we noticed this sitting in the sand,” Elana said.

The tooth is about three inches in length. Picture: Ros Stephen
The tooth is about three inches in length. Picture: Ros Stephen

“It’s the kind of thing you only find once-a-lifetime in Britain – fewer than 10 are found per year.

“People have said the tooth is at least three million years old due to the colour.

“Bawdsey Beach is really good for finding fossilised shark teeth.

“We once found a tooth belonging to an ancestor of the megalodon.”

Elana with her fossil collection. Picture: Ros Stephen
Elana with her fossil collection. Picture: Ros Stephen

This would not be the first megalodon tooth Elana has added to her collection.

Her mum, Ros Stephen, 51, said the family took a trip to Florida in December 2023 – where such discoveries are far more common – in the hopes she would find one for her collection.

Elana came across a five-inch megalodon tooth while there.

Elana has been interested in fossil hunting since a family trip to Wales in 2022, Ros said.

Elana with the 5.5-inch megalodon tooth she found in Florida. Picture: Ros Stephen
Elana with the 5.5-inch megalodon tooth she found in Florida. Picture: Ros Stephen

Now, the family, who live in East London, try to squeeze fossil hunting into holidays whenever possible.

In addition to trips to Bawdsey Beach the family find themselves fishing for fossils along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, in Kent or in Wales.

Ros said: “People occasionally find broken pieces of megalodon teeth in the UK, but to find a complete one is very rare. They get swept long distances and washed ashore by the tide, so to find one which wasn’t broken was really amazing. It’s an incredible discovery.

Elana with the tooth she found in Bawdsey. Picture: Ros Stephen
Elana with the tooth she found in Bawdsey. Picture: Ros Stephen

“We couldn’t quite believe what we’d found. We told Elana she was very lucky, but she’s very good at fossil hunting and knows what to look for.”

Elana said she was considering taking her new find to school.

However, this discovery of a lifetime hasn’t tempered her desire to hunt for fossils.

“I’d love to find another one, but I know I probably won’t,” she said.

Some of her fossils. Picture: Ros Stephen
Some of her fossils. Picture: Ros Stephen

“I haven’t found any fossilised sea urchins just yet and I’d love to come across plants or ammonites.”

The extinct megalodon – meaning 'big tooth' – roamed the seas approximately 23 to 3.6 million years ago.

It was estimated to have been able to grow up to 67 ft long and had 250 thick teeth that were designed to grab prey and break bones.