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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.”


21 Comments on How to Find Fossils

  1. Where should you find the fossils? It doesn’t really say.

  2. Hi I shell and I found a lot of shell fossil on my property and a lot stones plus gold flakes..

  3. Trees ru ls // July 25, 2018 at 12:54 pm // Reply

    Tell me, were are the best locations to find fossils.

  4. Dinos beneath us // June 30, 2018 at 9:00 pm // Reply

    I found 10000 yr old fossils of a TREE and by my research it was a oak tree

  5. good fun

  6. dizzyizzy7803 // November 7, 2016 at 7:49 pm // Reply

    hi i am doing a project on fossils with my class the info was helpful

  7. I’m 9 years old and I find an ammonite fossil. According to its markings, it is 75 million years old from the Cretaceous period in the Mesazoic Era!

  8. i think i have lots of fosils then lost them

  9. were would you look for fossils ? I’M trying to look for them but no sign of any. Could you help me?

  10. I really need some tips on how to find fossils and where to find them!

  11. I just found a trilobite in the appalation mts

  12. finding fossils are fun to find

  13. Very good

  14. I’ve found many ocean fossils in stream cut shale rocks.

  15. how to find a good fossil

  16. I found a T-Rex fore claw! 🙂

  17. Im in southwest Virginia and im tryin to find fossils..any suggestions??

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