Molly Sampson has been looking for fossils along Maryland’s Calvert Beach for almost her entire life. On her Christmas list this year was a pair of waders to explore the cold waters.

Sampson went out into the water with her dad and sister in her new Christmas waders and found what was later described as a “once-in-a-lifetime kind of find.”

“I went closer, and in my head, I was like, ‘Oh, my, that is the biggest tooth I’ve ever seen!’” Molly told NPR in an interview. “I reached in and grabbed it, and dad said I was shrieking.”

Sampson found a five-inch-long prehistoric megalodon shark tooth — the largest tooth in her collection of over 400 teeth to date.

These huge animals were big enough to “easily eat a whale” and their teeth are about the only part of the skeleton that has survived, reported Deseret News.

This particular tooth found by Sampson is believed to have belonged to a 45 to 50 foot long shark and dated around 15 million years old, as reported by USA Today.

The curator of the Calvert Marine Museum, Stephen Godfrey, identified the tooth and called it a “once-in-a-lifetime kind of find,” per CBS News.

Godfrey also gave a warning for future fossil hunters.

“People should not get the impression that teeth like this one are common along Calvert Cliffs,” he told CBS. “... And she didn’t have to dig into the cliffs to find the tooth (which could be dangerous) it was out in the water. Her find is wonderful because she has an interest in paleontology and this will propel her and others her age to explore the sciences!”

New research shows ancient megalodon sharks were large enough to easily eat an entire whale
Molly Sampson shows off the megalodon shark tooth she found on Maryland’s Calvert Beach on Christmas morning. | Calvert Marine Museum