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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.”


50 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.

  26. fossals are cool

  27. those are so cool

  28. Fossils are so cool because they were dinosauses!

  29. i have a GIANT collection of rocks.

  30. 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.

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

  32. How do you find fossils in the city?

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

  34. 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.

  35. 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

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

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

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

  39. i don’t know

  40. i found a fossil in my back yard

  41. Mr. Evans

    What about Leave No Trace ?

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

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

  44. 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!

  45. What are the more rare fossils?

  46. ive found Crinoids

  47. 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.

  48. were do you find fossils

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

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