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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.”


29 Comments on How to find fossils

  1. i love dinosaurs.

  2. Cool dude!

  3. fossil master // January 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm // Reply

    i have found loads of fossils in 4 months !

  4. ‘ Fossils Are Very Intressting Objects, We Once Last Year Wrote About Them And STUDIED About Them.

  5. I Love FOSSILS 🙂

  6. i have a plant fossils

  7. Once I found a fossil then I lost it.

  8. i have two

  9. i found a horn coral fossil in my back yard but cant get it out of the rock. also i have many other fossil like clams, moss, ferns and one that looks like dino poo. its got lots of little bones in it.

  10. AWSOME!

  11. Ilove the ideai!

  12. I live in Utah and I know of a few good places. One is called Fossil Mountain by Delta, search on the internet for directions.

  13. i found a rock with a bunch of shell suck in lime stone and sprial shells is this a good find

  14. I have a project to find fossils so i came to this site. I found nothing yet.

    • me too.i have been interested in fossil rocks for awhile and still,nothing.

      • once i was lookin’ at some rock because im in to fossils and stuff,well anyway i am sure i found an amunite.that was my first fossil i ever found.

  15. onlysixbucks // August 25, 2010 at 9:49 pm // Reply

    I have a fossil I found it on a shelf in a store

  16. all i want to know is where to find fossils in NewYork and NewJersey.Can i have some advice how to get some fossils.

  17. fossil boy // August 5, 2010 at 6:01 pm // Reply

    where can i find fossils in new market please help im dying my son is too

  18. I live in New Jersey all I find is crystals.

  19. CoinCollector // June 28, 2010 at 12:35 pm // Reply

    Does anyone know a good fossil collecting site where the public can come and find fossils that is close to San Antonio, TX?

  20. i LOVE dinosaurs and fossils but where can i find some in Ohio?p.s.i dont have any fossils yet:[

  21. fossil hunter of the twenty first century // January 30, 2010 at 8:44 pm // Reply

    i love fossils!! i don’t mean to brag but i have 2 amonites (not to mention the amonite fragments), 1 trilobite, 3 shark teeth, tons of fish fosssils, tons of mollosks, clams, oysters, and much other stuff.

  22. I found a fossil once. Once.

  23. i cant wait till i go tomy lake house.I bet can find tons of dad does a lot of construction there. i found some MY BROTHER FOUND REAL GOLD!!!!! ALL I FOUND WAS SOME SILVER AND A REALLY OLD PENNY

  24. i cant find fossils // January 5, 2010 at 5:18 pm // Reply

    i cant find fossils but i live in utah and i cant find any i look a lot but ive only found 1

  25. dragons ,it is very fun

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