Just what is this “fossil” I found?

Key to the City

Published: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 12:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 12:02 p.m.

So you consider yourself an ameteur paleontologist and constantly find yourself picking up intriguing specimens on your hikes.

While much of the time these “fossils” turn out to be rocks, shells or the remains of someone’s picnic lunch, very occasionally you stumble upon something you think just might be the real deal. Now what?

Time to turn to the weekend nature sleuths’ best friend: The experts at the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History. Vertebrate paleontologists there can identify your fossils that have been legally collected or purchased in Florida, the Southeast and the Caribbean region.

Staff at the museum’s Division of Vertebrate Paleontology will identify your specimen, asking that you pinpoint to the best of your knowledge where you found it.

There are three ways to garner their help: You may email an electronic image of the specimen (with a ruler held up to the item in the photo to show scale) in JPEG format to rhulbert@flmnh.ufl.edu or post it on your own website; you may carefully ship the specimen itself (packing as you would fragile china) or, because you’re a lucky Gainesvillian, bring your specimens to Dickinson Hall on Museum Road on the UF campus Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (It’s preferable you make an appointment first by calling 352-273-1930.

This is a free service, but if you have multiple specimens to identify, the museum asks that you make a voluntary donation to VP Research Fund in the UF Foundation to support fieldwork to collect fossils throughout Florida.

For more details on the museum’s fossil identification program, including how to ship or electronically send images of your specimens, go to www.flmnh.ufl.edu/vertpaleo/fos_id_svc.htm or the museum’s home page, www.flmnh.ufl.edu, and look under Collections/Vertebrate Fossils/Amateur Paleontologists/Fossil Identification Services.

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