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Extracting fossils

So, you found a fossil.  Now what?

It will need to be collected.  To do that, in Victoria, you will need a permit from the museum.  Unfortunately, anything you find will not be yours to keep, but, if you find a new species, you might get to name it!

Removal From Rock

Once the permit has been obtained, someone from the museum will come out and cut a square of rock around the fossil to remove it.  Have you ever gone along the coast and seen what looked like a square had been cut out by an angle grinder?  That was a fossil!


After it's been removed, it will be collected and labelled, and sent for preparation.

Small fossils can be cut out in a couple of minutes.  Larger specimens, like this almost complete skull of a Koolasuchus (video) can take hours.

You can find this video with sound in our videos section.



When palaeontologists are lucky enough to find large specimens, they want to keep them as intact as possible.  This will often result in one of two things happening.  They will attempt to extract the fossil skeleton on site, or they will bring the site back to the lab.  In the second instance, the fossils will be covered in plaster and large slabs will be lifted out for transport back to a lab where the preparation process can begin.

The photogrpah on the left shows just such a process taking place in Patagonia, Argentina in 2020.


Sometimes, it can be just as much fun hunting for the small stuff.  This process is more instantly satisfying, as you can take your fossil home with you, without having to cut it out of rock, or chip away the bits and pieces later.

The photo on the right shows a collection of ammonites, belemnites and crinoids that we found near Charmouth, on the Jurassic Coast of England.  This is one of our favourite places to go fossicking, as English law is happy for you to keep what you find.  'If you don't take it, the sea will.'  All they ask, is if you find something really interesting, let an expert see it, just in case it's something new!

There are places in Australia where you can find these, and keep them, but they are not as plentiful as the Jurassic Coast.

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