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How Do Fossils Form in Rocks?

Fossil formation is one of the most interesting things to learn about.  Fossils are perhaps the most important link to the plants and animals that called Earth home millions of years before humans existed.

When fossils form in rocks, archeologists, paleontologists, and other scientists can discover what led to the rise and fall of species, as well as what humans may do in the future to avoid a similar fate for existing flora and fauna.

How Does Fossil Formation Happen?

Find out about the ideal conditions for fossil formation, where to look for fossils, and how you can turn from a fossil enthusiast into a fossil hunter.

Fossil formation in rocks

Nearly all living organisms can become fossils, leaving their existence perfectly preserved in stone. However, the conditions have to be just right for fossils to form.

According to the New York State Geological Survey, the heat and pressure of being buried in sediment cause animals and plants to release oxygen and hydrogen, leaving only a carbon residue remaining. Although the soft tissue is dissolved, the bones and hard tissue remain.

Over time, water seeps into the remains, causing the crystallization of the animals’ carbon residue and turning the sediment into sedimentary rock, thus encasing the remains permanently. This is known as petrification.

Only digging or the erosion of the rock reveals these fossils. Other fossils are the result of the complete decay of the organism within a rock. This area then becomes filled with minerals, leaving a detailed cast of the remains.

Most fossils fall under these categories:

  • Petrified fossils.

  • Molded fossils.

  • Trace fossils.

  • Preserved remains, such as in amber or tar.

  • Cast fossils.

  • Carbon films.

How the fossil form is entirely dependent on the surrounding environment, meaning you can find different types of fossils in various geographic locations. Places that were once covered by water are the most common places to find fossils, as the conditions are ideal for fossil creation and preservation.

Fossil hunting is quite popular for many people, and so is collecting fossils.  Our Newport Beach fossil gallery has a wide range of rare and amazing fossils to add to your collection.  As an Orange County dealer, we buy and sell fossils on a daily basis.

How to Collect Fossils?

You don’t have to be a seasoned archeologist to collect fossils. All you need is a bit of knowledge about where to look for fossils and the proper tools. In most states or locales, geological survey maps show where fossils are frequently located. However, you may need written permission from the landowner or government body to extract fossils from the ground.

If you don’t have a map of fossil locations, you can still find fossils in areas with sedimentary rocks such as limestone, shale, and sandstone.

These soft rocks are relatively easy to dig through with a geological hammer, two chisels (one small and one large), and a keen eye for discovery. Finding fossils may take some time, so patience is essential. But if you have the mental fortitude and drive, finding fossils is an exciting venture for amateur collectors and even children.

Remember that in many places, you may not be allowed to leave with fossils, so check each location before you dig.

The formation of fossils takes millions of years, yet discovering them may only take a few hours. Armed with the right tools and a keen sense of adventure, you can uncover the Earth’s past and hold a million years of history in the palm of your hand. You won’t find that type of excitement anywhere else.

Not ready to go our digging for fossils but want to start a fossil collection?  Give us a call, we can get you started with the most amazing finds right here in the heart of Orange County.