Fossil Collecting

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Imagine stepping into the past to search for fossils from an ancient undersea environment that existed 380 million years ago in Western New York. Located just south of Buffalo, the Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve is the result of quarrying operations of the now-defunct Penn Dixie Cement Corporation. Layers of rock deposited during the Devonian Period are exposed at the surface and the 54-acre park provides ample opportunity for exploration. With 15,000 visitors annually, Penn Dixie is ranked as the #1 fossil park in the U.S. and welcomes guests from around the world.

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Our trained staff and volunteers will guide your journey through the layers in search of a range of fossils. Penn Dixie is famous for its trilobites — extinct arthropods who dominated the seas for 270 million years — but other fossils are just as plentiful if you know where to look. Our visitors are welcome to keep any fossils they find, though we do ask for photos of really cool specimens. We’ll offer help with collecting, tools for digging, and cards to help you identify your fossils.

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Artistic depiction of early Devonian land-flora by Eduard Riou, 1872.

The Devonian: 380 million years ago
Before dinosaurs ruled the earth, our planet was vastly different from today. North America and Europe together formed a large landmass that was situated south of the equator and submerged under tropical seas. Life on land was just starting to take root — literally, as Earth’s first forests produced the oxygen needed by the earliest amphibians who hunted giant insects at the water’s edge.

Below, reef ecosystems were dominated by brachiopods and horn corals. Trilobites — the potato bugs of the ocean — skittered and rolled as they evaded predators and scavenged what they could. At the top of the food chain, armored fish, sharks, and the first ammonites — predatory squid in round, chambered shells — feasted on a buffet of fish never to be seen again in earth’s history. But, catastrophe struck and it all came crashing down in the fifth largest global extinction event recorded.