Long before bumper-to-bumper shore traffic, and becoming the diner capital of the world, what we now know as New Jersey was almost completely covered by the ocean.

We're living today on the sea floor, where — even tens of millions of years later — the remains of prehistoric animals that roamed the sea can be spotted on a regular basis.

You just need to know where and how to look.

A two-hour hunt for fossil shark teeth is scheduled for this Sunday in Colts Neck, hosted by the Princeton-based Shark Research Institute. They provide the equipment and lead interested adventurers to one of the best spots in the state to find and take home a piece of history.

"It's a nice, cool little stream, maybe 18 inches deep, bordered on each side by cliffs, and the cliffs erode every year and dump the fossils into the stream," said executive director Marie Levine.

Past shark teeth hunt in Colts Neck (Shark Research Institute)
Shark Research Institute

Although it's called a "hunt," there's no question whether fossils will be found — it's a question of how many.

"Shark teeth are the most numerous type of fossil because sharks lose so many teeth in their lifetime," said Heather Cifuentes, who's running Sunday's hunt. "They can lose several thousand teeth in a lifetime."

The Institute hosts these hunts on a regular basis during the warmer months. Participants rarely go home empty handed.

Most discoveries come from shark species that are still around today — thresher, angel and sandtiger, for instance — but hunts have also uncovered teeth from the extinct crow shark and hypodont shark. All existed during the Cretaceous Period, which ended 65 million years ago.

"They're not new," Levine joked.

Participants get to keep the equipment they're provided, along with any fossils they successfully fish out of the brook.

HUNT FOR FOSSIL SHARK TEETH — July 22, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. / Colts Neck

  • $10 per person or $20 per family. Free for kids.
  • Registration is required: shatil2051@aol.com or 609-851-9032

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