SMU Paleobotanist Bonnie Jacobs with some of the fossils in the Shuler Museum collection.
Fossils often are found by amateur paleontologists. Sometimes
millions of years old, fossils can
be impressions found in rocks, mineralized
remains of wood, shells, teeth or bones, or — in rare cases — actual
Although a museum is the easiest place to find a fossil, where else
could you look? Here are some tips:
- Most fossils are found in sedimentary
rock. Look for rock that is stratified,
especially along creek beds and hillsides.
- To learn where you can find
sedimentary rocks in your area and how old they are, ask a
science teacher, go to the library, visit a
science museum, or join a geology club.
- They often
are found right at the surface because of wind
and water erosion.
- Look for unusual
shapes and textures -- objects that are clearly
different from the rock around them.
- If you find a fossil:
- If the fossil looks like a bone, leave it
in place and contact a professional
paleontologist. Such fossils may be extremely
- Work slowly and carefully so not to damage
it while uncovering and cleaning it.
- Handle it very carefully because fossils
often are fragile.
- Write down the exact location where you found your fossil and
what type of rock it was in. If possible,
take pictures of the location. This
information is essential if your discovery
turns out to be important.
- A good geological
field guide may prove very helpful
identifying your fossil.
- Visit a museum and compare your
find to fossils and other objects on
- Talk to a paleontologist at a museum or
university. They may learn as much from you as
you do from them.
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