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Best places to find fossils in the world

As a continuation of last week's post looking at the best places to find fossils in the UK, I thought that this time, since it's not fair to leave everyone else out, we could take a look at the best places to find fossils in the world!


Let's not stand on ceremony and jump straight in...


South Coast of the UK

Ok, this first one is a little bit of a cop out, but we can't leave out my home country if we're looking at the best fossil sites in the world. I won't go into massive detail here since I already covered it in the aforementioned post, but just know that there are various places in the UK (especially on the South coast) where incredible fossils can be found, from run of the mill marine invertebrates, to pyritised fossils to even dinosaurs, all of which are from various ages in Earth's history.



Maryland, USA

Our next stop is in Maryland in the USA. Neighbouring Washington D.C, Maryland has a few sites of interest where you can find your own fossils. Most of these sites are south of Baltimore, where Cretaceous rocks make up much of the northern part of this section in which many dinosaur fossils have been found.


As you continue south, the rock beds get younger and younger, ranging from the Paleocene all the way to the Holocene and contain mostly marine fossils. As you hit the Calvert cliffs, you can comb the beaches and be sure to find plenty including various molluscs and shark's teeth.

Forest with a cliff in the background
Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BlueRock2.JPG


Zigong, China

Skipping across a continent or two, we have Zigong in China. This area is famous for, not only salt mining and production, but also the hugely abundant dinosaur and other vertebrate fossils. Contained here is the Shaximiao formation, which is Mid to Late Jurassic and there has been a plethora of vertebrate fossils here including crocodilians, therapsids, turtles, pterosaurs and, yes, dinosaurs, with a whopping 31 genera having been named so far.


It's likely that any remains found will be fragmentary but you're bound to stumble into something. Just be sure to check the legalities of the area on what you are taking as well as the scientific morals...you wouldn't want to ruin a new discovery!

Floor of a dinosaur excavation under a platform with people viewing it
Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gisement-fossilif%C3%A8re-_du_mus%C3%A9e_de_Zigong.jpg



Montana and Wyoming, USA

I would be infinitely remiss if I didn't mention the big bad Hell Creek. With outcrops spread across Montana, Wyoming and North & South Dakota, the Hell Creek formation from the Late Cretaceous is another one famous for its dinosaur content. While your in and around Wyoming, you can also check out the Morrison formation from the Jurassic, equally as famous for its dinosaurs.

view of a mountain landscape
Hell Creek Formation. Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hell_Creek_State_Park.jpg

Both of these formations are not only rich in some great finds, but have also given us many household names such as Ankylosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex....you may have heard of one or two of them.

landscape view of a mountain range
Morrison Formation. Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Green_River_UT_2005-10-14_2104.jpg

Now, again, I don't implore actually going out and taking everything you see, since it may be a scientifically important find, but there is nothing stopping you visiting and even looking into a guided tour.



Utah, USA

We have another locality from our cousins across the pond, this time in Utah. What can I say? America is a great place for fossils.


Utah especially has an awe-inspiring amount of sites, since much of the state is natural. You can find rocks here dating from the Early Cambrian all the way to just 16 million years ago and almost everything in between! Given this fact, this particular state could warrant a list all by itself going through the best sites for fossil finds, so let's just say most of the state for now. Here you can find plant remains, worms, trilobites, shellfish, corals, fish, dinosaur footprints and bones, ice-age mammoths and much more. There are even parts that contain some of the oldest known Cambrian fossils!

A rocky desert
Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arches_1_-_panoramio.jpg


La Brea Tar Pits, USA

This one is a quick one, since it isn't technically somewhere that you can stumble across fossils to take home, but I just couldn't leave this one out.


In case you never heard of them, the La Brea tar pits is an ongoing paleontological research site located in Los Angeles. With natural asphalt seeping up through the ground over the span of tens of thousands of years, many Ice Age animals have been found to have perished and preserved in the tar pits after they had become stuck.


When fossils were discovered at the site in 1901, research began before eventually it was decided that a team would need to be there indefinitely, so they decided to set up a museum right next to it to display the findings and help fund the research. From these pits they have found sabre-tooth cats, Dire Wolves, Short-faced Bears and Mammoths and much more.


Again, you can't waltz on by and stumble across a load of fossils to take home, but it makes for a great visit for the insight into professional paleontological work and the surrealness of being on an active excavation site in the middle of a city.



Queensland, Australia

Next up, we're going down under. Any fossil sites in Australia are mostly found to the East of the country, since everywhere else holds deposits that are much older than most of life. In Queensland lies the towns of Hughenden, Richmond and Corfield. You may also notice that these towns join together to forma triangle. This particular triangle contains what is known as Australia's 'Dinosaur Trail' and there are plenty of guided tours that explore most of the area.

A large statue of a Mosasaur on a street corner
Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Richmond,_Queensland_-_Dinosaur_Museum.jpg

Much of this section of Queensland contains outcrops from two formations. The Winton formation, which was deposited 104-92 million years ago and contains plenty of fish, crocodilians, dinosaur footprints and remains from various theropods, sauropods, ornithopods and pterosaurs. There is also the Toolebuc formation from 113-100 million years ago, which contains a lot more marine fossils such as more fish, plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs and turtles.


Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?....



Argentina, various

We're jumping over to South America for our next one, namely Argentina. This country has been particularly famous for its dinosaur discoveries, namely how huge some of the dinosaurs have been. Household names like Giganotosaurus and Argentinosaurus, two of the biggest land animals to ever exist, have both hailed from Argentina.

A wide open rocky desert with rocks in the foreground
Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ischigualasto_national_park.jpg

Four areas are of particular interest. First is the Talampaya and Ischigualasto National Park, both of which contain the Ischigualasto formation. This is a Late Triassic fromation and is full of tetrapod remains, including dinosaurs, rhynchosaurs, cynodonts, petrified trees and coprolites. It should be noted that this is a protected world heritage site, so taking anything is off limits, but guided tours and volunteered excavations can be organised.


There is also the Sarmiento Petrified Forest, if plant remains are your kind of thing as well as the Rio Limay Formation, which is technically a subgroup of formations and outcrops at various points throughout the mid-West of Argentina. This contains various turtles, snakes, frogs, fish, crocodilians, Iguanodontids, Carcharodontosaurids, Titanosaurs, Thyreophorans, dromaeosaurs, birds and so much more!



Egypt, Africa

Our last stop is in Egypt, Africa where there are, again, several sites of interest. The first two are must visit sites for mammal nerds as they are Eocene-Oligocene in age. The first here is in the Faiyum Governorate of central Egypt, where the Jebel Qatrani Formation outcrops. Here you'll find a myriad of birds, reptiles, fish and mammals galore, namely basal monkeys, who are closely related to our own ancestors. Speaking of basal animals, you can also check out Wadi al Hitan, which is thee single most important site in the world for insights into the evolution of whales.

A desert with a cordoned off fossil of a whale in the sand.
Wadi al Hitan whale fossil. Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_whales_fossils.jpg

And, of course, we can't forget the Bahariya formation, home to many dinosaurs including the famous Spinosaurus!

Artist's rendition of the Bahariya Formation
Art by Andrew McAfee


I would like to close this post by emphasising that most of these sites are of extreme scientific importance, therefore, while they are incredible places to visit, they should be supervised by someone who knows the area and to avoid legal trouble. Just remember that taking anything is, at best immoral and, at worst, illegal, so be careful!


Until next time!

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Ryan Belanger
Ryan Belanger
2 days ago

I feel Alberta should be on this list.

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