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How to find fossils


Sometimes a rock’s just a rock … and sometimes it’s a fossil. How can you tell the difference?

Research which fossils are common where you’ll be hiking

Stop by a museum or visitor center, call a local university’s geology department or search for a club of paleontologists (people who study fossils of plants and animals).

Find the right kind of rocks

Fossils are found in sedimentary rocks, like sandstone, limestone or shale. Sedimentary rocks look like layered pancakes.

Look for exposed rock

Check out stream cuts, bluffs, sea cliffs, road cuts or any place where bedrock is eroding.

Get low

You’ll see more fossils when you’re on your hands and knees. Use a magnifying lens. Form a “search image” in your mind. If you spotted ammonites at a nearby rock shop, think about what they looked like. Search for spirals and snail shapes. And remember that most fossils are small sea animals – not rare dinosaur bones.

Don’t take fossils

Leave fossils as you found them, so others can enjoy them, unless directed otherwise by local authorities. If you think you’ve found something unusual, make a careful note of its exact location — information that’s as important as the rock itself. A fossil’s location tells its story, where and how the animal lived.


Here are five fossils that you can look for on your next hike.


People in the Middle Ages called ammonoids “snake stones” because they thought the fossils were coiled snakes.



Scientists say most brachiopods disappeared 250 million years ago, when as much as 95 percent of ocean animals died in a mass extinction.



Algae lives inside the coral, giving it nutrients and oxygen.



This flower-shaped animal’s anus was next to its mouth.



Growing trilobites crawled out of old exoskeletons through head splits, giving their fossils “facial structures.”


25 Comments on How to find fossils

  1. fossals are cool

  2. those are so cool

  3. Fossils are so cool because they were dinosauses!

  4. i have a GIANT collection of rocks.

  5. I think that the fossils are very cool on the pictures that they show them here. I have seen a fossil before they were very cool the fossil that I saw was a rat it was killed but we just left it alone and let it do it’s stages that it needs to do before it turne’s into fossil fuel. I do not know why I like them so much but thatb is just the way I am.

    I wonder what food they ate before they died.

  6. ok that is sooo cool i want to hold one and get dirty

  7. How do you find fossils in the city?

  8. Rocks? HO YA I LOVE ROCKS!!!!!

  9. im a new cub scout and i like to play basketball and go to the beach where there are lots of fossils and schells to collect from the ocean. i have a kewl collection so far.

  10. other me (not the first one) says // January 22, 2008 at 8:51 pm // Reply

    i think it would be cool to go out and just see a fossil by a stream or somethin

  11. hi my name is bobby and i think rocks are cool

  12. I always find tons of fossils, but usually they are worthless.

  13. there is this place that is cool that is somewhere in africa.

  14. i don’t know

  15. i found a fossil in my back yard

  16. Mr. Evans

    What about Leave No Trace ?

  17. i found a fossil i thank it is a dinosuar bone

  18. i live on a dirt rod and i found a very unusal fossil.

  19. With the unfortunate drought that is occuring in the south eastern states, now is a very good time to look for fossils. I live in Georgia, and there are many sreams and creeks that are completely dried up exposing a lot of rocks you otherwise would not be able to get to or see. Also the river systems are running much lower than usual exposing a lot more of the edge shore, and in some areas you can even get to the bottom of where the water is still running. This makes for a great location as you are able to get to many older rocks that have not even been seen for years, let alone looked at in search for fossils! All along the Appalachian trail you will find dried up streams, creeks, and river beds! So the next time you go hiking, look around for those areas that look like the ground is shaped like a “V”, then you can start looking around for fossils! Good luck and Happy Hunting!

  20. What are the more rare fossils?

  21. ive found Crinoids

  22. you can find fossils buried in the ground .. or a place with lots of rocks like a riverbed with no water in the mountains. and i think you clean fossils with a brush.

  23. were do you find fossils

  24. Thats cool how to get the fossils. But how do you clean the fossils?

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