Since shark skeletons are composed of cartilage instead of bone, often the only parts of the shark to survive as fossils are teeth. Fossil shark teeth date back hundreds of millions of years. A tooth becomes a fossil when it is buried in sediment (or other material) soon after being lost from a shark's mouth. The sediment precludes oxygen and harmful bacteria from reaching the tooth and destroying it. The general fossilization process varies greatly depending on the exact situation. In general it takes approximately 10,000 years for a tooth to become a true fossil. The color of a tooth is determined solely by the color of sediment in which it is buried while fossilizing. The tooth absorbs minerals from the surrounding sediment. As the minerals replace the natural structure of the tooth, the tooth becomes the same general color as the sediment. Therefore, color is not an effective indicator of the age of a tooth. The most common color for shark teeth is a black root with a grayish crown. Different colors are more uncommon and significantly increase the value of a tooth.
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