Fossils/Fossil List

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This page contains information about all of the specimens on the 2019 list for the event Fossils.



Of all the groups that students are responsible for knowing for this event, Protists are the most under-represented. There are only two groups competitors need to know- the phylum Foraminifera and the class Bacillariophyta. Competitors also need to know the Fusulinid family and the genus Nummulites.


The class Foraminifera, or as they are usually called, forams, are extremely basic fossils. They are single celled organisms, the oldest of which date back to the Permian.

An illustration of various forams
An illustration of various forams

The distinguishing feature of forams is their test, a shell that the animal secreted while it was alive. This test is made of CaCO3 (calcium carbonate) the majority of the time, but it is sometimes made of particles of sediment. Many forams lived benthically, but some were planktonic, and all were marine. They became much more common when coral reefs expanded, and would die off without them. They are useful indicators of past environments and can be good index fossils. The petroleum industry will analyze the foram content of the ground they want to drill in to determine whether or not to drill there.

Competitors are responsible for knowing Fusulinids (usually the genus Fusulina) and the genus Nummulites.


A diagram of fusulinid morphology

Fusulinids are easily recognizable by their appearance- they appear to be grains of wheat. They lived from the late Mississippian to the Permian, and are excellent index fossils. Their presence indicates that the area was shallow, clear, and marine in the past. Morphologically, they are very complex. The test, as it grew, would twist into a spiral around the single cell, and would form chambers within itself. They are omnivorous, eating via reticulopodia (cell extensions), which projected through pores in the test to catch small creatures.

Classification: Protista (kingdom), Foraminifera (phylum), Granuloreticulosea (class), Foramiferida (order), Fusilinidae (family), Fusilinids (genus)



The name "nummulites" means "little coin" in Latin. The test of Nummulites is also spiraled, but does not form the same structure as that of the fusulinids. Its test takes the shape of a disc. They date from the Paleocene to the Ogliocene epochs, and are commonly found in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia. Nummulitic limestone was what was used to build the pyramids. Extremely large for a foram, they can reach a diameter of six centimeters. This is an index fossil because it evolved quickly and was very widespread.

Classification: Protista (kingdom), Foraminifera (phylum), Granuloreticulosea (class), Foramiferida (order), Nummulitidae (family), Nummulites (genus)


Diatoms are not on the Official Fossil List for 2019.
Diatoms under a microscope

The name "diatom" means "cut in half". Diatoms have been around since the lower Cretaceous. The official name for their group is Bacillariophyta. They are a major group of one-celled algae. Their cell wall is made of silica, and is called the frustule. They are microscopic. Diatoms carry out photosynthesis, and can be found in both marine and fresh water environments. Their body is divided into two parts, the epitheca and the hypotheca. The epitheca overlaps the hypotheca like the lid of a Petri dish. Diatoms were present in such great numbers that their remains contributed greatly to ocean sediment. The term 'diatomaceous earth' refers to sediment that is overwhelmingly composed of fossil diatoms.

Classification: Protista (kingdom), Heterokontophyta (phylum), Bacillariophyceae (class), Centrale/Pennale (order)


All specimens on the list in Kingdom Animalia.

Invertebrate Animals

The vast majority of fossils competitors will need to know for the event are invertebrates. This makes sense for two reasons- invertebrates are the most common fossils throughout North America, and they are inexpensive and cheap to use as samples during the event. They may seem boring at first, but they are just as important as anything else.


Porifera, or as they are usually known, sponges, are extremely ancient, extremely primitive organisms. They are first known from the Late Precambrian, and are still around today. Their bodies do not contain tissue, muscles, nerves, or organs. They pump water through the body to feed, and have one body orifice to serve for ingestion as well as excretion. They are benthic and sessile, and live in marine environments. Some are composed of silica spicules, and others of calcium carbonate. Sponges reached their greatest diversity during the Cretaceous period.

Competitors need to know two sponge genera for the event.


Hydnoceras, a glass sponge

The genus Hydnoceras is considered a "glass sponge", which means it was composed of silica spicules, which provided structural support and deterred enemies. Glass sponges are extant, but are now found only in the deep ocean. In the past, they could be found at almost all depths. Hydnoceras lived from the Devonian to the Pennsylvanian in the eastern United States and Europe. It is the simplest form of multicellular life.

Classification: Animalia (kingdom), Porifera (phylum), Hexactinellida (class), Lyssakida (order), Dictyospongiidae (family), Hydnoceras (genus)


Astraeospongia, a calcareous sponge

Astraeospongia is referred to as a "basket sponge". It was a calcareous sponge- that is, it was composed mostly of calcium carbonate. It lived in marine environments, and lived from the Silurian to the Devonian. The spicules were the only part of the sponge that got fossilized, and there are star-shapes spicules all over the body (though they can be faint). The pores of the sponge are called Ostium.

Classification: Animalia (kingdom), Porifera (phylum), Heteractinida (class), Octactinellida (order), Astraeospongiidae (family), Astraeospongium (genus)


Fossil Bryozoans, with a penny for size reference

Bryozoans evolved in the Ordovician, and are still found today. The structure seen when looking at a Bryozoan is actually a support structure composed of calcium carbonate. The animal itself lives in tiny holes in that structure, and is rarely larger than a millimeter. They appear very similar to corals, but are very,very different in biology. They are commonly found in Paleozoic rocks and indicate a shallow marine environment. Nowadays, they can also be found in fresh water. They attached to the bottom of the ocean, and were filter feeders. The produce a compound known as bryostatin 1, which is currently being tested as an anti-cancer drug. Bryozoans can reproduce both sexually and asexually. They are commonly known as "moss animals". Bryozoans come in three growth forms: massive (a mound with no planned shape), branching (where the structure forms intricate branches), and fenestrate (where in life the bryozoan would have large, soft appendages coming out from the skeleton).

Competitors need to know two Bryozoan genera for this event.


Archimedes, which looks like a screw

Archimedes lived during the Carboniferous period. It was a fenestrate bryozoan, that was much wider in life than it seems from the fossil. It was named for the Greek thinker Archimedes, who invented the water screw - Archimedes looks very much like a screw. It was a filter feeder, than was benthic and sessile in nature, living in shallow marine waters. Individual animals are called zooids. Archimedes prefer clear water because murky water clogs zooecium.

Classification: Animalia (kingdom), Bryozoa (phylum), Stenolaemata (class), Fenestrata (order), Fenestellidae (family), Archimedes (genus)


Rhombopora, a classic branching bryozoan

Rhombopora lived from the Carboniferous to the Permian. It was a branching bryozoan that lived as all of them did- sessile, benthic, and filter feeding.


The graptolites (phylum hemichordata) were around from the Cambrian to the end of the Carboniferous. Their fossils generally look like pencil marks on a rock. They are usually fossilized by means of carbonization in shale. They serve as excellent index fossils for the paleozoic. They consisted of colonies of microscopic organisms with a threefold body division.

Notice that they are Hemichordates. They are thought to be on the path that led to the vertebrates.

Graptolites, which do look very much like pencil marks


The cnidarian group contains jellyfish, sea anemones, and corals. They all use stinging cells knwon as nematocysts to capture prey, which is usually plankton. Corals are benthic, shallow marine, whereas jellyfish are planktonic. Modern corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae.


A fossil jellyfish.

Scyphozoans are not on the Official Fossil List for 2019. Scyphozoans (jellyfish) are extremely rare as fossils, as their bodies are made mostly of water. Very, very unusual conditions are required to have fossils of jellyfish form. They have two life stages- the polyp and the medusa. As a polyp, they are sessiles, but they eventually mature into a medusa, which is planktonic. They use their nematocysts to capture and kill marine organisms. They have an internal support structure called the mesoglea, which serves as a skeleton.


Corals are divided into two groups for this event- horn corals and colonial corals.

Solitary horn coral

Horn corals are all members of the order Rugosa, which flourished from the middle of the Ordovician to the end of the Permian. All horn corals were solitary, and get their name from their body shape, which is horn-like. Their presence indicates that the area had been a shallow marine environment.

Colonial corals include tabulate, scleractinian, and some rugose coral. Scleractinian coral is the only variety found in today's waters. The colonial corals were and are the reef builders, each polyp being part of a large community of organisms. Keep in mind that the grouping of "colonial corals" is not natural. It divides up other groups of coral, and includes some that are more closely related to horn coral than to other colonial corals.

Heliophyllum, horn coral

Heliophyllum was a solitary horn coral that lived during the Devonian period. It was, of course, a member of the order Rugosa. It fed using its nematocysts to stun prey.

Favosites, colonial tabulate coral

Favosites was a colonial tabulate coral that lived from the Ordovician to the Devonian. A specimen can be anywhere from a few centimeters to tens of centimeters in all dimensions. It is commonly found in Silurian limestone, and is easily recognizable by the honeycomb-like appearance when viewed from above. They are found worldwide.

Hexagonaria, a colonial rugose coral

Hexagonaria was a colonial rugose coral. It was very widely distributed around the earth. It is the state fossil of Michigan, known commonly as the Petoskey Stone.

Halysites, the "chain coral"

Halysites is commonly known as the "chain coral", due to its growth pattern, which resembles a chain. It was a tabulate coral and lived in warm, shallow waters (including ancient reefs) from the middle of the Ordovician to the late Silurian.

The only scleractinian coral on the list

Septastraea is the most recent coral on the list. It lived from the Miocene to the Pleistocene during the Neogene and Quaternary periods. Septastraea's morphology is variable, being able to grow into just about any shape. It was a scleractinian coral, the only variety found today. It lived in warm, shallow water reefs.


This is the phylum that contains the "creepy-crawlies" of today. Arachnids, insects, and the like are all arthropods. They have segmented bodies and many limbs.


This is the major class of arthropods competitors will be asked about.

The lobes that give trilobites their name. 1- Left pleural, 2-Axial, 3-Right pleural
The sections of a trilobite's body. 1- cephalon, 2-Throax, 3-pygidium

Trilobites are named for their bodies, which are divided into three lobes, which run longitudinally along the body. The trilobite's body is also divided into three sections. They were widespread from the Cambrian to the Permian, but fell victim to the huge mass extinction at the end of the Permian period. Most of them lived benthically, but some may have been planktonic. They were all marine. They are good index fossils, and were most diverse at the end of the Cambrian. After the Ordovician, they moved from shallow water to deep water. Most of them were detritus feeders, but some may have been active predators and scavengers. They had legs, which were probably made of chitin, and antennae. Neither of these are commonly fossilized, but some exceptional specimen do have these parts intact. Trilobites had spikelike structures on each side of the cephalon known as "free cheeks", which fell off during molting. There are four genera of Trilobite that competitors will be responsible for knowing.

Eldredgeops (formerly Phacops)

Eldredgeops is notable for its huge glabella. That is the distinguishing feature of this genus.

Eldregdeops/Phacops, a Devonian trilobite

It had eyes with fewer lenses than other trilobites, which may have meant that it had better vision than its counterparts. It lived in warm, shallow seas during the Devonian period (it is an index fossil). It is commonly found rolled up into a ball, which it was probably doing for self protection.


Isotelus was a trilobite that lived during the Ordovician period. It was the largest trilobite- three species of Isotelus grew to almost a meter long. It also possessed pits around the body that some think housed sensory hairs.


Cryptolithus was a small trilobite that lived during the Ordovician. It was almost completely blind, and probably just ate detritus on the bottom of the ocean. It is also known as the "lace collar trilobite", because the front edge of its cephalon looks somewhat like lace. It is easily identifiable by its long free cheeks, and its unbelievably squashed appearance.

Elrathia, a Cambrian trilobite

Elrathia is the oldest trilobite on the list. It is identifiable by its small head and well-defined axial lobe. It is divided into thirteen narrow segments, and dates back to the Cambrian period.


A systematic diagram of a eurypterid's anatomy

The eurypterids belonged to the same group that modern-day horseshoe crabs are classified in. Horseshoe crabs and eurypeterids both date back to the Ordovician. As arachnids, they are related to modern day spiders and scorpions. They are the largest-known arthropods ever to exist, the largest measuring in at 2.5 meters long. Most, however, were less than eight inches long. Although the earliest fossils of eurypterids date back to the Ordovician, the level of complexity already exhibited by the group indicates that these "sea scorpions" evolved in the Cambrian. They were another victim of the Permian extinction. When they were first discovered, paleontologists thought that they were ancient catfish- it was seven years later that they became identified as arthropods. Eurypterids were most diverse during the Devonian and Silurian periods. More detail is known about the external anatomy of eurypterids than any other group of fossils, and they are almost as well known as modern animals. The picture above lists and shows the body segments. Note that the prosoma is both the head and the body, and that the chelicerae are homologous not to the pincers of scorpions (which are the second appendage) but to the fangs of spiders.


A fossilized insect

Insects have been on Earth since the Devonian period. They are a group of terrestrial and freshwater arthropods. They are divided into three sections; the head, thorax, and abdomen. They have six legs attached to the thorax. Insects began as wingless organisms, but evolved wings in the Carboniferous. Many undergo metamorphosis in the change from one stage of life to another. The oldest true flies date from the Triassic. By the Jurassic butterflies had evolved, and by the Cretaceous all modern forms of insects had appeared. Insects were not visibly affected by the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous.


A fossilized crustacean

Crustaceans evolved in the Cambrian period. They are a group of aquatic, carnivorous arthropods. Their bodies and legs are encased in a shell made of chitin, a glucose derivative with the formula C8H13O5N. Their bodies are divided into segments, sometimes called the head, thorax, and abdomen, but sometimes referred to as the cephalothorax and abdomen. Every crustacean's head has two pairs of tactile antennae and three pairs of food-handling limbs. Their walking legs are divided into two, and may contain gills. Like in lobsters, the last appendage of the abdomen may be flattened.


Brachiopods are a diverse group of lophophorates that are externally very similar to clams and other bivalves. As lophophorates, their closest relatives are bryozoans. They are divided into two groups- inarticulate and articulate.


Inarticulate brachiopods evolved in the Cambrian and are still found in today's oceans. Although they were originally shallow marine organisms, today's brachiopods are only found in the deep ocean. Most inarticulate brachiopods are less than 1 cm in size. Their shells were composed of calcium phosphate, and they lived in benthic marine environments. They could be either epifaunal or infaunal in nature, depending on the species. They were filter feeders.


Articulate brachiopods have two valves that are different size. The larger shell is called the pedicle valve. It contains a hole through which a fleshy stalk called a pedicle attaches to a substrate (rocks or sediment on the sea floor). The pedicle acts as an anchor that firmly holds the brachiopod in place. (Unlike most clams that can move through sediment, brachiopods are immobile throughout adult life.) The pedicle valve contains projections called teeth, which fit into sockets on the opposite brachial valve. The brachial valve of Articulates The pedicle valve of articulates


Lingula is a living fossil (it is still alive) that evolved in the Ordovician. It is known for having a very long pedicle, which anchored it to the sea floor (thus, it was a sessile).

It had a thin, tongue-shaped shell, hence the nickname "Little Tongue". It lived in vertical burrows in intertidal areas and fed on detritus. It can be detected by a short row of three openings through which it takes in water (sides) and expels it again (middle).

Specimens of Lingula

Atrypa is a genus of brachiopod with shells round to short egg-shaped, covered with many fine radial ridges, that split further out. Atrypa was a cosmopolitan, meaning it occurred on multiple continents, and occurred from the late Lower Silurian (Telychian) to the early Upper Devonian (Frasnian).

The radial ridges of Atrypa shown in great detail

Found from the Upper Devonian to the Permian and abundant in warm, shallow seas, they are often present in rock with much shell debris. Composita had a smooth shell with a more or less distinct fold and sulcus and a round opening for the pedicle on the pedicle valve. Given the smooth shell, it was perfectly suited to survive in turbulent environments.


Juresania was a suspension feeder in a marine environment from the Carboniferous to the Late Permian. It was about 16 mm long and 22 mm wide. It had a round outline, a convex ventral, and was covered with numerous small spines. These small spines were found on both halves of the shell, and are the easiest way to identify Juresania.

The spines of Juresania

Leptaena is an extinct genus of brachiopods occurring from the Ordovician to the Permian. It is best identified by concentric wrinkling in the shell, which is finely striated. It adapted to living in sediment by lying flat, allowing sediment to gather on top of it. It is fan shaped.


Sometimes known as butterfly shells, Mucrospirifer is an extinct brachiopod that lived in the Devonian. They were filter feeders.

Mucrospifier, "Butterfly Shell"

Platystrophia occurrs as fossils in marine rocks of the Ordovician epoch to about the middle of the Silurian period. Each valve of the shell is convex in profile, and the hinge line between the valves is wide. Surface markings on the shell include prominent angular ridges and intervening linear depressions.


Rafinesquina were large brachiopods that occurred from the Ordovician to the Carboniferous. They were epifaunal, suspension feeders.(Which means they would consume things such as plankton suspended in the water.) They are "D" shaped, have concave brachial valve, and a convex pedicle valve.


Rhynchonellida are a still living order of brachiopods that first began to appear in the Ordovician. They can be identified by their wedge shape, and large ridges. They are biconvex, and have changed little since their appearance in the Ordovician.



The following are a part of the phylum mollusca


Bivalves are a still living class of mollusks that include oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops. Bivalves first appeared in the early Cambrian, and they're usually bilaterally symmetrical.


Found in shallow marine deposits from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, the genus exogyra is a asymmetrical bivalve. The left valve is shaped almost like a cup and was used to cement the mollusk, while the right valve was much flatter. They had very thick shells and had curved beaks.


Gryphaea are an extinct genus of mollusk that occurred between the Jurassic and Eocene. Gryphaea can be identified by there curved shape, lines that indicate growth, and similarly to Exogyra, they have a cupped left valve and a flatter right valve. As adults, the curvature of the shell could become so pronounced the shell would not be able to open, and the creature would die. These oyster relatives are also known as the Devil's toe nails because of their shape.


Pecten are a still living genus of scallops that first began to appear during the Cretaceous period. The name pectin comes from the latin word for comb or rake, and the genus was used for the basis of the Shell Oil Company's logo. Like most scallops they have a pair of flat "ears" along the hinge line, and has a series of ridges branching out from the beak. Unlike most bivalves, scallops, including pecten, are mobile creatures, however they are filter feeders and have a diet that consist mostly of plankton.


Pholadomya is an extinct genus of marine clam that occurred from the early Triassic, to the late Pliocene.



Ammonitoidea, Nautiloidea, and Coleoidea

Ammonoids have distinctive suture patterns which fall under three major categories:

  • Goniatitic: These sutures have a zig-zag appearance and are characteristic of Paleozoic ammonoids
  • Ceratitic: These sutures are characterized by lobes and saw-tooth patterns and are characteristic of early Mesozoic ammonoids
  • Ammonitic: These sutures have much more frequent and divided lobes than Ceratitic sutures and they do not have saw-tooth patterns. They are characteristic of late Mesozoic ammonoids
Baculites, "walking stick rock"

Baculites was an ammonoid from the upper Creteaceous. It's name means "walking stick rock." It was carnivorous and lived in the middle of the water collumn. Its shell was nearly straight. Fossils of Baculites are extremely brittle and almost always break, usually along suture lines. They most likely fed on pelagic zooplankton. Adult Baculites ranged in size from ~seven centimeters up to two meters in length. As with other ammonites, the shell consisted of a series of camerae (chambers) that were connected to the ammonite by a siphuncle by which buoyancy could be regulated.


Belemnitella is an extinct genus of Cephalopod from the upper Creteaceous. Most commonly, only the rostrum, or calcitic guard, is fossilized. As well as the rostrum, strongly curved, sharp hooks made of chitin are sometimes preserved as fossils. They were attached to the belemnite's tentacles, and were probably used for grasping and holding prey. Belemnites were an important food source for many Mesozoic marine creatures, and likely played an important role in helping marine ecosystems after the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event. They lived from 234–66 mya. They had a squid-like body but, unlike modern squid, they had a hard internal skeleton. As with other fossils, belemnites have been thought to have medicinal powers. These varied from region to region, but included remedies for rheumatism and sore eyes, and a cure for intestinal stones in horses.

Belemnitida, "Belemnites"

Dactylioceras was an ammonite from the early Jurassic. It probably scavenged on the sea floor. Dactylioceras has a strong, ribbed shell, with ribs slightly inclined forward, running over the outer edge, and either simple or forking at the outer end. They were usually 1 ¼” to 2” in diameter. Specimens have been collected from almost every continent, and was one of the most successful ammonite lineages. Dactylioceras is a valuable index fossil because it was so widespread. They may often have died shortly after spawning.


Nautilus is a cephalopod that emerged in the Triassic and has living specimens today (i.e. they are living fossils). They are characterized by relatively convolute shells that are usually smooth, with compressed whorl sections, straight or even sinuous sutures, and a tubular siphuncle. The inside of the shell is divided into camerae (chambers), the chambered section being called the phragmocone. Most nautilus species never exceed 20 cm (8 in). To swim, the nautilus draws water into and out of the living chamber with its hyponome (i.e. jet propulsion).

Nautilus, a living fossil

Orthoceras was a cephalopod from the Lower Ordovician to the Upper Triassic, although the time of their extinction is not completely clear. The most likely fed on trilobites and small arthropods. The name means straight horn, referring to the characteristic long, straight, conical shell. They ranged in size from less than a centimeter to more than 14 feet long. They have a global distribution. Their middle body chamber is transversely constricted, which help them to swim and crawl on the ocean floor.



Conus is a gastropod that ranged from the Eocene to modern day. Conus most notably can fire a toxic harpoon containing various venoms known as conotoxins. They are the only gastropods known to kill humans. Their main diet is Mollusks, and larger specimens can prey on small bottom-dwelling fish. Their spire is short and smooth. They are mostly tropical in distribution.

Cypraea, "Cowrie"

Cypraea, also known as a Cowrie, originated in the Miocene and still lives today. When non-threatened, it is soft. However, when a predator makes contact with it, it hardens its exterior and confuses the predator. They are about 2 cm long. They ate algae and corals. They are widespread throughout North America in distribution. It is sometimes used for jewelry and was used as currency by Africans and Chinese.


Platyceras is a gastrophod ranging from the Silurian to the Middle Triassic. They fed off of crinoid excrement.


Turritella is a gastropod that originated in the Late Jurassic and still lives today. The name "Turritella" comes from the latin word turritus which means turreted or towered.


Worthenia was a gastropod that lived from the Devonian to the Triassic. It was named after the paleontologist Amos Henry Worthen.








Vertebrate Animals



Bothroolpis is an extinct genus that lived during the Middle and Late Devonian. It was a bottom-dweller inhabiting streams and lakevand found all over the world. Bothroolpis was not a pursuit predator with its small jaws and teeth and probably fed on bottom-dwelling invertebrate.


Dunkleosteus is an extinct genus of arthrodire placoderm fish that lived during the Late Devonian period. It has been found in North America, Poland, Belgium, and Morocco and probably inhabited inshore waters.


Chondrichthyes is a diverse taxonomic group of fish that have skeletons primarily composed of bone tissue, as opposed to cartilage.



Otodus is a genus of mackerel shark that lived from the Paleocene to the Miocene and primarily ate other sharks.


C. Megalodon






Tiktaalik is a monospecific, which means consisting of only one species, genus of extinct sarcopterygian (lobe-finned fish) having many features similar to the tetrapods (four-legged animals). It lived during the Late Devonian Period.











Aves (Crown-Aves/Neornithes)




Homo neanderthalensis





A fossilized Acer leaf.

Acer (maple trees) is an extant genus of angiosperms (flowering plants). Most maples are trees growing to a height of 10–45 m (33–148 ft). Others are shrubs less than 10 meters tall with a number of small trunks originating at ground level. Most species are deciduous, and many are renowned for their autumn leaf color, but a few in southern Asia and the Mediterranean region are evergreen. Most are shade-tolerant when young and are often riparian, understory, or pioneer species rather than climax overstory trees. There are a few exceptions such as sugar maple. Many of the root systems are typically dense and fibrous, inhibiting the growth of other vegetation underneath them. Acer originated in the Cretaceous period, and can be found presently in North America, Asia, and Europe. Many Science Olympiad competitors often mistake Acer for Platanus. One surefire way to tell them apart is that Platanus has 3 main veins that branch into two separate veins, and Acer does not have these branching veins.

A fossilized Populus leaf.

Populus is an extant genus of deciduous tree-like flowering plants (aspen trees, poplar trees). The genus has a large genetic diversity, and can grow from 15–50 m (49–164 ft) tall, with trunks up to 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) in diameter. Populus is indigenous to much of the northern hemisphere.

A fossilized Platanus.

Platanus is an extant genus of sycamores (also known as plane trees). Most species of Platanus are between 100 and 150 feet tall. Most species of Platanus are deciduous, but Platanus Kerrii is coniferous. Most plane trees grow in areas of high water content, such as a wetland. They have, however, been found to be drought-tolerant. Members of the genus Platanus have existed since the late Cretaceous. Science Olympiad competitors commonly mistake Platanus with Acer, a similar tree species. One surefire way to tell the two apart would be to look at the way the veins of the leaves branch. All Platanus leaves will have 3 main veins that branch into two separate veins, and Acer does not have these branching veins.



A Ginkgo Fossil.

Ginkgo is a genus of highly unusual non-flowering plants. The scientific name is also used as the English name. The rate of evolution within the genus has been slow, and almost all its species had become extinct by the end of the Pliocene; the exception is the sole living species, Ginkgo Biloba, which is only found in the wild in China, but is cultivated across the world. Ginkgo preferred more watery environments.



A fossilized Lepidodendron.

Lepidodendron (common term: Scale Trees) is an extinct genus of tree-like vascular plants. They came about in the early Carboniferous period, and later went extinct in the late Triassic period. Most species of Lepidodendron would live for 10-15 years. Lepidodendron displayed constant dichotomy, meaning that whenever the tree splits in to 2 branches, those branches would be evenly sized. Fossils of Lepidodendron have commonly been found in North America, Europe, and Asia.



A fossilized leaf off a Metasequoia.

Metasequoia (dawn redwoods) is a deciduous tree, which is known to grow relatively quickly. Certain species of Metasequia have been known to reach heights of above 165 feet, which is actually among the shortest redwoods in the world. Metasequoia is extant, and has existed since the late Cretaceous period. The extant species of Metasequoia, Metasequoia Glyptostroboides is indigenous to China. Metasequoia has not evolved at all in the last 65 million years, they are seen today exactly as they were 65 million years ago.



A fossilized trunk-like structure from a Calamite.

Calamites are an extinct species of horsetails (a vascular plant similar to a fern). Unlike modern horsetails and ferns, calamites were thought to grow into a tree-like structure, growing up to 100 feet tall. It is thought that calamites were components in coal swamps of the Carboniferous period. Calamites reproduced both sexually by spores, and asexually via cloning.



Annularia is a form taxon, applied to fossil foliage belonging to extinct plants of the genus Calamites in the order Equisetales. Annularia leaves are arranged in whorls of between 8-15 leaves. Its shape is quite variable, being oval in Annularia sphenophylloides and semilinear in Annularia radiata, but they are always flat and of varying lengths. Annularia only existed in the Carboniferous period, although they could've possibly existed in the Permian period.




Glossopteris is the largest genus of seed ferns (Order Glossopteridales). Glossopteris was a woody, seed-bearing shrub or tree, some reaching 30 meters tall. It is unknown if Glossopteris was monoecious or dioecious. Glossopteris only existed in the Permian. It is also very important to the theory of past supercontinents.



Pecopteris (leaf genus Psaronius)

Pecopteris is a very common form genus of leaves. Most Pecopteris leaves and fronds are associated with the marattialean tree fern Psaronius. Pecopteris first appeared in the Devonian period, but flourished in the Carboniferous, especially the Pennsylvanian. Plants bearing these leaves became extinct in the Permian period. It is the only true fern that humans know about.


Falling into the other category are ichnofossils and some sedimentary rocks.

Trace Fossils

A trace fossil, also known as an ichnofossil is a geological record of biological activity. Ichnology is the study of such traces, and is the work of ichnologists. Trace fossils may consist of impressions made on or in the substrate by an organism: for example, burrows, borings (bioerosion), urolites (erosion caused by evacuation of liquid wastes), footprints and feeding marks, and root cavities. The term in its broadest sense also includes the remains of other organic material produced by an organism — for example coprolites (fossilized droppings) or chemical markers — or sedimentological structures produced by biological means - for example, stromatolites. Trace fossils contrast with body fossils, which are the fossilized remains of parts of organisms' bodies, usually altered by later chemical activity or mineralization.


A domal stromatolite.

Stromatolites are layered mounds, columns, and sheet-like sedimentary rocks that were originally formed by the growth of layer upon layer of cyanobacteria, a single-celled photosynthesizing microbes (the oldest evidence of photosynthesis on Earth). Stromatolites typically formed in shallow water. Some structure types that some stromatolites exhibit include conical, stratiform, branching, domal, and columnar types.



Amber is fossilized tree resin. Amber is produced by molecular polymerization, resulting from high pressures and temperatures produced by overlying sediment, transforms the resin first into copal (similar to amber, but produced at a lower temperature with less pressure). Sustained heat and pressure drives off terpenes (the sticky, smelly, sappy part of the tree resin).

For this to happen, the resin must be resistant to decay. Many trees produce resin, but in the majority of cases this deposit is broken down by physical and biological processes. Exposure to sunlight, rain, microorganisms (such as bacteria and fungi), and extreme temperatures tends to disintegrate the resin. For the resin to survive long enough to become amber, it must be resistant to such forces or be produced under conditions that exclude them.

Petrified Wood


Petrified wood is produced when wood becomes buried in water-saturated sediment or volcanic ash. The presence of water reduces the availability of oxygen which inhibits aerobic decomposition by bacteria and fungi. Mineral-laden water flowing through the sediments may lead to permineralization, which occurs when minerals precipitate out of solution filling the interiors of cells and other empty spaces. An area with many trees that have been petrified is referred to as a petrified forest.

Sedimentary rocks

Sedimentary rocks are rocks which have been formed by means of compaction and cementation. They are classified by the size and makeup of the sediment.

Coquina Limestone


Coquina is a type of limestone made up of small shells that have been compacted together. The shells are typically that of molluscs, trilobites, brachiopods, and other invertebrates. Coquina tends to accumulate in high energy marine environments. Coquina is mainly composed of the mineral calcite.

Fossil Limestone

Fossil Limestone

Fossil limestone is a rock made of limestone that can be microscopic or visible. These rocks are very prevalent in Lagerstätte around the world.

Chalk Limestone

Chalk Limestone

Chalk is a white, very fine grained version of limestone, formed from the compaction of many shells of microscopic organisms called coccolithophores. It was originally used as chalk in schools, but different minerals are used today.


Sandstone is what the name says: sand-sized grains that have been compressed into a rock. Most types of sandstone are made of quartz and feldspar. Common colors of sandstone are Tan, black, gray, white, and pink. In marine environments sandstone is typically created in shallow ocean areas, such as deltas, beaches, and tidal flats. On land sandstone is commonly formed in rivers, streams, and lakes.



Shale is a very fine-grained sedimentary rock created by compacting clays into a rock. Common colors of shale are brown, gray, tan, and black. Shale is important to fossils in that it is a common fossil preserving rock. Lagerstätte on the fossils list that are composed mainly of shale include Burgess Shale and Mazon Creek.



Mudstone (or siltstone, whichever you prefer) is a sedimentary rock similar to shale in that it has very small particles, but is made out of compact mud and silt rather than clay. Common colors of mudstone are tan, brown, and gray.