Posted June 14, 2017
Digging into the Past: Discover Ohio’s Fossils!
By: Michael Fouts
Summer is the time to be outdoors! Fossil hunting is a fun family activity for students to do while school is out. There are fossil parks around the state, many just a short drive away, where students will have the opportunity to dig into the soil and learn about the animals from far away times in Ohio’s buried past.
Fossil parks in southwestern and northwestern Ohio contain a wide variety of ancient marine invertebrate fossils. These fossils were once the animals that lived in the tropical waters that covered Ohio for much of the Paleozoic Era (542 million years ago – 252 million years ago). During this time, Ohio was located around the equator and the waters above the state were not very deep compared to our modern day oceans, so it was a very warm and hospitable place to be. Many of the creatures living in those prehistoric waters relied on a ridged shell to protect and structure their bodies because they lacked what we call spines. These shells became the fossilized remains that can be found in the rock in southwestern and northwestern portions of the state. Among the marine invertebrate fossils are Isotelus maximus, the state fossil of Ohio!
Trilobites such as Isotelus maximus can be found in Ohio. (photo: ohiomemory.org)
In northwest Ohio you can dig for fossils from as far back as the Devonian Era (416 million years ago – 359 million years ago) at Fossil Park located near Toledo, Ohio.
This specimen of fossilized trilobite tracks was found in Clermont County, Ohio. Trilobites once lived in lakes and other marine enviroments between 570 million years ago and 260 million years ago. (photo: ohiomemory.org)
Southwest Ohio continuously produces some of the best marine invertebrate fossils in the entire world! You can visit Trammel Park located near Cincinnati, Ohio to dig for fossils:
Brachiopods, such as the ones pictured above, are small clam like animals. They first appeared in the waters that once covered present-day Ohio during the Ordovician Period (488 million years ago – 444 million years ago). (photo; ohiomemory.org)
You can find other fossil sites across the state. Visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to find a fossil hunting location near you!