Most amateur fossil collectors identify fossils they find based on overall shape or by comparison to pictures. For some genera and species, this is fine, but for others, there may be similar-appearing possibilities, which require some understanding of the terminology used to scientifically describe the shapes, outlines, and specific features (parts) of gastropods.

Shapes of gastropod shells are commonly described and classified based on coiling and the outline shape from the side. Other features such as the number of whorls (coils), the height of the spire, size and shape of the aperture or opening from which the soft-bodied snail was connected to its shell, the shape of the lip around the aperture, and ornamentation are also used to describe living and fossil gastropod shells.

Common terms used to describe parts of modern and fossil gastropod shells.
Common terms used to describe parts of modern and fossil gastropod shells.

Content and graphics by Stephen Greb, Kentucky Geological Survey

 

Last Modified on 2021-12-21
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