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I spend a lot time rock climbing and walking and generally being around rocks. But I've never seen a fossil. I've always liked the idea of finding a nice fossil.

How would I go about doing this? Any beginners guides?

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  • In the UK head down to the South coast, also called the Jurassic coastline, plenty of fossils down there - best place to start :) – Aravona Feb 9 '15 at 8:16
  • Yeah, I know the jurrassic coast, @Aravona . Lovely down there. bit of a trek though! – user2766 Feb 9 '15 at 8:45
  • Also Limestone is often rich in fossils - one of the benefits of caving )as caves are usually formed in limestone) is you often see nice examples. – Paul Lydon Feb 9 '15 at 12:19
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    You've never seen a fossil? That honestly blows my mind, because I have seen thousands if not hundreds of thousands or millions, they're almost as common as the rocks you find them in, finding a fossil is nothing special here (Rockies), it's rare to go for a hike without seeing lots, and when you find one you maybe show it off, "this one's neat" but then drop it again and keep hiking. Come to Canada and go for a hike here if you want to see fossils, I can guarantee you will find more than you would ever want to take back home with you. You can go to the museum in Drumheller while your at it. – ShemSeger Feb 9 '15 at 19:50
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    It's not always legal to take fossils, depending on where you find them. So please make sure you check local laws before doing this. – Unknown Coder Apr 21 '15 at 2:25
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Fossils are very prevalent in certain geographic areas, and practically non-existent in others. A lot of that depends on the geography of the area – both the present geology and the geologic history of the location dating back millions of years. Fossils require very specific conditions to form (which you can read about on Wikipedia and elsewhere in great detail), and then must be exposed on the surface when the surrounding sediment is eroded away.

The Sithsonian Institute has published a map showing areas of North America with significant dinosaur fossil formations:

This map shows (in green and dark blue) the regions of North America where rocks that formed during the Age of Dinosaurs -- 225 to 65.6 million years ago, are exposed at the surface of the Earth. The red dots mark all the dinosaur discoveries ever reported in the scientific literature. If you live near near one of these places, there might well be dinosaurs in the bedrock under your home!

Fossil Map

Of course, dinosaurs are but one of many fossils out there, and this map only shows North America. The best way to find fossils near you is to search the internet for "fossils" and "your region", e.g. "fossils in Oregon" or "fossils in Ireland" or wherever you are. Many known fossil deposits are protected areas for conservation, but there are plenty of places where you can see them yourself.

Many people think of giant dinosaur bones when they think of fossils, but there are millions (if not billions) of fossils of much smaller organisms out there – fossils tiny sea creatures abound embedded in rocks along coastlines, like these:

Fossils embedded in rocks

You're unlikely to just spontaneously find fossils in areas you go climbing/hiking; you need to specifically research where they are found and go to those areas. If you do find fossils, remember that they have been there for millennia. Practice good leave-no-trace principles, and leave the fossils as you found them.

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  • Spontaneous fossil finds are very common where I'm from, especially if you're hiking off the beaten path and scrambling some scree. I've found shells and organisms, which isn't too uncommon, but mostly it's old plant life and the like. My dad was a mechanic at a pit mine growing up, they see fossils every day there, I've talked to guys that say they see footprints pretty often, they even recovered a dinosaur there one year. – ShemSeger Feb 9 '15 at 19:56
  • On the other hand, most of my country has no stone layer and as such no fossils at all. So certainly check for the nearest fossils to increase the chances. – Willeke Feb 1 at 14:29

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