FORT WALTON BEACH -- During the two months Kayla Klatt was unable to work as a massage therapist, the Mary Esther woman and her dog walked twice a day in a recreational area on the Eglin Reservation.


She guesses she’d walked down the same dirt road 50 or 60 times before they took a sunset stroll Monday, May 11. On that evening, she looked down and saw something opalescent half-buried in the dirt road.


"The light shone on it just the right way," she said. "I saw the little tiny jagged edge and thought, ’That looks like a tooth.’ "


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She went back the next day with a friend to carefully chisel it out and learned that she’d stumbled across a megalodon tooth.


Megalodon sharks have been extinct for at least two million years. They are considered to be the largest shark that ever lived.


Her friend, Michael Firth, who had helped her chisel it out, sent photos and inquiries to experts in paleontology at the University of Florida.


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All three confirmed that it was a megalodon tooth. Though Klatt’s is just short of 3 inches, some as long as 8 inches or larger have been found.


Since she found it on a manmade road and there were fragments of rocks attached, the scientists confirmed Firth’s suspicion that it had been brought in from a quarry when the road was built.


"The shark tooth in the images does belong to the extinct species Carcharocles megalodon," Richard C. Hulbert Jr., Collections Manager, Division of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, wrote in an email. "A large portion of the tooth’s root is missing on one side, but more complete on the other ... On the other side of your tooth, is still a portion of the original rock stuck to the root and the central part of the root.


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"This is actually an important clue as to the original source of the specimen, so if you decide to remove it, then I suggest you save this piece of rock, or even its pieces if it breaks up as you remove it," he continued.


Eglin officials, when notified of the find, said that while they don’t recommend anyone digging on their property, this was clearly an "innocent find." Because it was brought onto the reservation, it does not have the historical significance that a fossil like that might have if it was native.


"The circumstances were innocent," said Shawn Arnold, Cultural Resource Manager at Eglin., "They saw something that caught their eye in the road they dug it out."


However, he said that if it had been a significant archaeological find, officials ask that citizens come to them and partner with them to explore the finding.


"We don’t want to scare the public away," Arnold said. "If people find things we want to know about it. We want them to come to us. This is a partnership with the public."


The Eglin Reservation is 700 square miles, with portions of it open to members of the public who have secured a recreational pass.


Klatt has told few people about her find and still can’t believe that she spotted it after walking down that road so many times.


As of early this week, she was still processing what happened and had not decided what to do with her tooth.


"These teeth are millions of years old," she said. "Man, that’s crazy."


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