Ask a Paleontologist

Q. I found this rock and it looks like a fossil sunflower. Can you tell me what it is?

A. This looks like a type of green algae called Receptaculites that once grew in the shallow sea. 

Q. What is this fossil called?

A. The common name is horn coral, which is a type of ancient coral (rugose) that are now extinct. 

Q. I found this wormy fossil this weekend. I didn’t think worms made fossils.

A. The wormy-looking fossils are curved drillholes in fossil wood. If you look closely, you can see the dark brown material has growth rings of wood. Clams, often called shipworms, drilled into the driftwood at sea leaving a trace fossil we call Teredolites.

Q. Is this a fossil? It’s really round.

A. It looks like a concretion – sand that is tightly cemented together. These often take on organic, curvy shapes. It isn’t a fossil, though sometimes concretions contain a fossil at their center. Hope that helps!