A Field Guide to Fossils
A Field Guide to Fossils
If you’ve found something small and there are no rules against collecting in the area, wrap it safely in tissues or a handkerchief and take it to your local museum or university. If you’ve found something big (like a dinosaur skeleton), don’t try to dig it up. Even big fossils can be delicate, and you can badly damage them if you don’t use the right techniques and glues. Leave big things where they are and take a picture of them next to a pencil, backpack or other common object to make it easy to judge the size of the fossil.
Written by a paleontologist whose fossil-hunting expeditions have taken him all over the world, this eight-fold pamphlet provides full-colour photos and information about the various types of fossils that one might discover. It begins with an introduction which explains what fossils are, how they are formed, and the units of time on the Geologic Time Scale (GTS) from 4,540 million years ago to the present. A geologic map of North America, colour-coded to correspond to the GTS band found along the bottom of the page, indicates the location of period-specific fossils.
The author (who wrote Mega Rex: A Tyrannosaurus Named Scotty which is also reviewed in this issue) provides a few tips and tricks for finding and removing fossils, but owing to a field guide’s compact size, this section is obviously limited in scope. Most important of the tips, perhaps, is preserving the integrity of the find. Photos are grouped chronologically in single panels, starting with reef builders (sponges and corals), followed by seashells, graptolites and cephalopods, invertebrates, fish, land plants, reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals, and trace fossils (e.g. footprints, bite marks and eggshells). Birds and insects are mentioned only in passing, amphibians not at all.
There are abundant crisp, full-colour photographs of fossils, each suitably labelled with the name of the plant or animal as well as its place on the Geologic Time Scale and whether it is common, uncommon or rare. Some of the entries are accompanied by a sentence or a brief paragraph.
The field guide’s eight-fold format is perfect for the young fossil-hunter: it is lightweight and easy to slip into a pocket or a backpack; and it is plastic-coated for durability and protection from the elements. On the back panel is a handy scale bar with both Imperial and metric measurements.
With its glossy photos and basic information, A Field Guide to Fossils will serve as a good introduction for young fossil enthusiasts.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.