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Longboat Key Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2019 3 years ago

Longboater’s beach walks led him to unexpected fossil collection

Over the years, Fred Beyerlein has come across various fossils while walking Longboat Key beach.
by: Katie Johns Community Editor

Fred Beyerlein grew up on a farm in Massachusetts, close to where a glacier stood centuries ago.

As a kid, he would find debris left behind from the glacier, causing him to become fascinated with how the world works.

“I’m interested in how this world got together,” the 92-year-old said.

Today, Beyerlein, a Spanish Main Yacht Club resident, often walks the beach. He never purposefully looks for shells and bones to collect, but he’s ended up with a collection anyway.

Beyerlein found what he has verified to be a woolly mammoth molar when Longboat's beach was being renourished.

“When I see a fossil tooth or something like that, I recognize it for what it’s worth, but I’m not necessarily looking for it,” he said.

Beyerlein has a collection of fossils he’s found on Longboat Key’s beaches. He’s confirmed the origin of the fossils best he can with the help of a book, “A Golden Guide to Fossils.”

His collection began shortly after he moved to the island in 1956. Beyerlein, a retired electrical engineer, moved to Longboat Key with his late wife, Joan, from Lennox, Mass., and started walking the beach almost every day.

His collection spans from shells to items he has verified as a woolly mammoth molar and horse teeth. When he found the woolly mammoth tooth, there was erosion on the north end of Longboat Key, and sand was being moved to renourish the eroded section. Beyerlein saw a little pile of sand and saw the molar.

He said he knew he had found something special because it resembled an item he had seen at the South Florida Museum in Cortez that he used to visit frequently. He credits the museum for his knowledge on a lot of this collection.

When he find items, he tries to verify them by matching what he’s found to a set of cards he has for shells and teeth. Sometimes, he uses the book for verifying items that might be more unique, like the horse teeth.

“I had to get a fossil book to be sure that what I’m seeing is for real,” he said. “It was especially helpful for the horses’ things here because how would I know that a certain year that’s what these teeth looked like?”

Various horse teeth have found their way into Beyerlein's collection. He uses charts and photos, like the ones above, to verify what he has found.

Today, he walks the beach often and photographs the sunset nearly every day, earning himself the nickname “green flash” amongst his neighbors after the light phenomenon  just after the sun sets.

He said the sand on Longboat, which he would consider a fossil because of its Appalachian Mountain descent and white color, helps highlight fossils.

“If you go to Cape Cod where its a grayish color, you have to hop around,” he said.

Beyerlein said he thinks the best time to find shells and fossils is when the tide comes in, as it can sweep items ashore.

And whether the items swept inland are simply shells or fossil shark teeth, such as megalodon ones Beyerlein has found that are anywhere between 12 and 28 million years old, there’s always something to collect.

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I’m Katie. I’m the Longboat Observer community editor, which means I cover all people, places and things pertaining to Longboat Key. I graduated from the University of Missouri in 2016 with degrees in journalism and Spanish. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 364.

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