Shark Teeth and Fossil Hunting in Alabama

by June Farquhar

Hunting for shark's teeth and other fossils in Alabama is rewarding to students, amateur archaeologists and professionals. According to the Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA), whoever is collecting fossils has a responsibility to preserve the sites and to record the places where fossils are found, either by drawing a map or taking photographs. Important finds should be reported to the GSA or one of Alabama's paleontology societies.

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Fossil Locations

Locations where fossils may be found are provided through several sources. The Geological Survey of Alabama recommends that people looking for sites to do digs should contact one of the state's many paleontology or archeology societies. The Alabama Paleontology Society and the Birmingham Paleontology Society have information about where to dig and what may be found, as well as a list of books that will instruct those wanting to participate in a dig.

Marine Fossils

Two locations known for marine fossils in Alabama are Livingston and Huntsville. In Livingston there are areas where shell fossils need not be dug; they are simply lying on top of the ground. Sometimes these artifacts are too fragile to dig for, and sometimes they are not too plentiful. In Livingston locations that have not been visited a lot, many fossils may have weathered out of rocks. According to Ray Hill of Great South Gems and Minerals, a site south of Huntsville contains marine fossils from the Mississippian Age (320 to 360 million years ago). Hill has found Archimedies, horn coral and brachiopod fossils at this location.

Field Guidebooks and Education

Field guidebooks are available through organizations such as the Birmingham Paleontological Society and the Alabama Paleontological Society. The Alabama Museum of Natural History published a helpful report on fossil footprints in Alabama. (The museum is located on the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.) People who would like to go on a fossil dig with professional paleontologists may contact the Birmingham or the Alabama paleontological societies; both conduct fossil-collecting field trips regularly. Teachers who would like to include paleontology in their lesson plans may contact the Geological Society of Alabama to request information about its Educational Series.

Unique Fossil Deposits

The Union Chapel Mine in north-central Alabama is the world's best Carboniferous site. The site came to the attention of the paleontology world in 1999, when a science teacher scouted the coal mine and found a 310 million years old vertebrate track imprinted on a tidal mud flat. The site underwent what Geological Survey of Alabama called an "unprecedented effort" to save the site from reclamation.

References

  • Geological Survey of Alabama: Fossil Collection http://www.gsa.state.al.us/gsa/fossil_collect.html
  • Great South Gems and Minerals; Marine Fossils; Ray Hill; 2008 http://www.greatsouth.net/rockcollectingbook/Collecting_Marine_Fossils.htm

About the Author

June Farquhar has been writing for newspapers and special publications in California since 1998. She's the recipient of a press club award for organizing and designing a 42-page "Red Ribbon Week" tabloid, which received recognition from the California State Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. Farquhar studied newspaper journalism at Bakersfield College.

Photo Credits

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