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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. That was a cool artical

  2. This article was interesting because it teaches people a lot about fossils, where they come from, how to find them. And it is very interesting to learn about fossils too. I also like to find fossils from different types of plants that are in my drive way, now in stone form!

  3. I learned so much about fossils i cant wait to go out and start looking.

  4. how to find fossils and other interisting items are actually very easy all you have to do is start to dig with a shovel very carfully and sooner or later you’ll find somthing intresting.

  5. sweet fossils!!!!!

  6. Next time I go outside I will make sure to look for these things

  7. the folsels are so cool

  8. I have found many fossils just looking by the creek and in the pea gravel by our swingset. We find fossils by the Lake Michigan beach alot also.

    The best one I have was in a rock garden at our neighbors. They had just gotten a fresh load poured from the truck and I looked down and this is my best fossil ever.

  9. You rock at finding good fossils.

  10. Thanks alot!

  11. Fossils may be gros but they’re awsome I’d like to find fossils.I love to find fossils.

  12. I love to find fossils eather they’re under ground or in the mountains the’re still realy awsometo find them exspeicaly in the summer.

  13. where is the derdra

  14. i had a necklace that looked like it had tons of crinoids strung around it.. i think it was just plastic though

  15. I have A cystal rock and it is still growing

  16. In Jurassic park they make dinosoar amusement parks from fossils.

  17. i think i found a fossil of a skull

  18. Boborinorino // January 23, 2008 at 8:51 pm // Reply

    Thats awssome

  19. Rocks are really cool!

  20. i always find tons of fossils on the exposed side of a cliff

  21. bobby joe jr. // January 23, 2008 at 8:19 pm // Reply

    Fossils are sweet!!!

  22. I think it is a good article that teaches people a lot on a whole bunch of different types of fossils and what they came from.

  23. i am jacob i think the corals fossil is cool

  24. asd3333333333333333333333333333 // January 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm // Reply

    in a rock

  25. I took a fossil from my mom’s collection to the Museum of Natural History for a special day they have in March so you can tell if what you have is old and they told me it was from a pre-Jurassic period.

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