Animals(fossil shells, corals, animal bones, etc.)

Shellfish, etc. (invertebrates): the most common fossils in Kentucky

Of the two groups of animals, invertebrates make up the most abundant animal life on earth. Most invertebrate fossils found in Kentucky had hard skeletons and lived in shallow seas. The types (classes) of invertebrate animals commonly found as fossils in Kentucky include:


Backboned animals (vertebrates): includes dinosaurs, fish, mammals, etc.

Vertebrates (or Craniata) include the well-known animals such as fish (Pisces), amphibians (Amphibia), reptiles (Reptilia), dinosaurs (Dinosauria, usually included in the Reptilia), birds (Aves, sometimes classed as feathered Reptiles or Dinosaurs), and mammals, including humans (Mammalia). Fossils of all these groups have been found in Kentucky except for the dinosaurs, which have the potential to be found in far western Kentucky, although none have been found to date. The common feature of vertebrate animals is that they have a spinal column and associated vertebrae. In some animals, like sharks, the vertebrae are composed of cartilage. In other animals, like mammals and reptiles, vertebrae are composed of bone. Bones can be fossilized; cartilage is generally not fossilized. Vertebrate fossils are rare in Kentucky. Most reported fossils that look like bones, claws, or teeth, are actually fossils of other types of animals or are pseudofossils. Pseudofossils are rocks that look like fossils, but are not fossils. If you think you have found a fossil bone, look at the "recognizing fossil bones" section first. Look at the criteria for identifying fossil bones, and see if the fossil you have looks like the fossils shown to determine if it is actually a bone or not. If after comparing your fossil to the other fossils, it appears that your fossil may be a fossil bone, try to match it to the fossils shown below in Vertebrate fossils found in Kentucky. Vertebrate Fossils Found in Kentucky:

Plants (fossil ferns, wood, roots, etc.)

Plants can be divided into two main groups: those that reproduce by microscopic spores, and those that reproduce by seeds.

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Single-celled life (fossil stromatolites)

Single-celled life forms have been the most abundant life forms on earth since life began. Because most of these single-celled beings are soft and decay easily, their fossils are very rare.

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Trace Fossils(fossil tracks and trails)

Trace fossils are the tracks, borings, nests, trails, bite marks, etc. of ancient organisms. Trace fossils are common and can be very helpful in determining behavoir in extinct animals. The study of traces is called ichnology. Most of the trace fossils in Kentucky were made underwater by invertebrate animals. However, one trace, a reptile trackway from McCreary County was made on land.

Last Modified on 2019-10-29
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