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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.”


10 Comments on How to find fossils

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

  2. 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.

  3. where is the derdra

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

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

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

  7. i think i found a fossil of a skull

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

    Thats awssome

  9. Rocks are really cool!

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

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