Sharks in Siena

Is it possible to see a shark near Siena, even if Siena is 40 km away from the sea! Yes, I saw one. But it had died 3 million years ago…fortunately! I say fortunately because this shark was very big. Its scientific name is Carcharocles Megalodon and lived during the Upper Pliocene (approximately 2-3 million years ago) and it reached a maximum length of 60-70 feet, three times the size of the modern Great White shark (Carcharodon carcharias). It is the largest predator to ever swim the seas.

Walking on the hills around Siena and Arezzo you have to imagine a completely different landscape. At one time here there was a tropical sea lapping a coral reef along the present border between Tuscany and Umbria and the king of that sea was Megalodon.

Since shark skeletons are composed of cartilage instead of bone, often the only parts of the shark to survive as fossils are teeth – and a shark lost a lot of teeth during its lifetime.

Searching for fossils can be a great adventure into our planet’s past, and it is a good way to explore the countryside that most tourists never see. If you are near Siena you can hunt for fossil shark teeth.

You could start your research near Lucignano not far from Siena. There, in the sands of an ancient beach, you could find shark teeth as long as 10-15 centimeters (about 4-6 inches) among the coral, shells and other fossils.

On the border between Tuscany and Umbria, close to Chiusi, there’s an ancient coast line. On Mount Cetona I found some coral reefs and Pliocenic cliffs, and I found it incredible to imagine a tropical sea instead of the green hills of Tuscany. For further info you can ask someone at the Siena University Earth Sciences Department.

In Cetona there’s also a natural history museum. I have never seen it, but it sounds interesting.

Prehistory Museum of Monte Cetona
Via Roma, 37
53040 Cetona
Tel: +39 0578 237632

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