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Fish Fossils

Fish fossils are somewhat rare especially when you consider that fish are the oldest and most diverse of all vertebrate animals. Because of their fragile, delicate bodies and limited bone structure, fish needed special conditions for fossilization to occur. Except for shark teeth, which are the nearly indestructible remains of the cartilaginous species, fish fossils are less often found and available for collection.

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Where are Fish Fossils Found?

Fish are one of the most dominant and abundant lifeforms in our waterways, oceans and seas. Dating back to almost 530 million years ago, fish have evolved into around 32,000 known species today.

For collectors of fossils, a question that comes up often is where fish fossils are found? At the surface, a logical answer might be “in river beds” and “ocean floors”, yet the actual answer is a bit more complex.

In this guide, we’ll dive into where you can expect to find fish fossils around the world.

Where are Fish Fossils Most Abundant?

The most common place to find fish fossils is in sedimentary rock created over millions of years from sediment deposited in  water. Condensing of these sediments (such as minerals, bones and organic material) removed moisture, and under pressure, cemented the grains together. Animals, plants and other creatures were often trapped and subsequently buried in this sediment, becoming fossilized over time. Although sedimentary rock is quite abundant across the world, fossils are not as easy to locate, and in some areas are downright rare.

Sedimentary rock rich in fossils is typically the result of a previous catastrophic and rapid deposition of sediment. Interestingly, and somewhat surprising to non-scientists, is the fact that fossils found in sedimentary rock are almost exclusively found on continents, not in deep ocean basins. In the long span of geologic time What is dry land now was once and probably many times under water!

However not every place that was under water has fish fossils. Nature is the great recycler. Most living things become food for other living things upon death. The obvious predators and scavengers take care of most soft tissues and bacteria consumes the rest! So for a fish to become fossilized It has to be buried pretty quickly in an oxygen poor environment.

There are places on earth called Lagerstatte. These are areas where fossils have formed with exceptional preservation and often great diversity of species. Some of these are particularly rich in fish fossils. There are many known Lagerstatte on earth but just a few of them are rich in fish fossils. Below is a list of some of the most famous of these fossil beds.

  • Hunsruck Slates, Germany
  • Bear Gulch, Montana
  • Holzmaden, Germany
  • Santana Formation, Brazil
  • Green River Formation, Wyoming
  • Monte Bolca, Italy


The Green River formation of southern Utah and southwestern Wyoming, however, is an Eocene formation that contains fossilized fish, along with rays and numerous plant fossils. At fossilicous.com, we have many beautiful examples of these delicate fossil remains in a variety of price-ranges to suit your budget.

Dastilbe and Knightia Fish Fossils

The Dastilbe fish are from the Lower Cretaceous period, approximately 120 million years ago. They are from the Santana Formation near Ceara, Brazil.

The Knightia are an extinct species from the Eocene Epoch about 50 million years ago. They were found in the Green River Formation, Wyoming.

The Knightia fish fossils come from Southwest Wyoming near Kemmerer. They are from the Eocene Epoch of the Cenozoic Era, and are about 50 million years old. At that time Wyoming was in a tropical setting with several very large lakes.

Many fossils have been found in the Green River Formation from that time, including fish, mammals, plants, birds, crocodiles, insects, and other kinds of animals.

It was a time of high volcanic activity. The ash from these volcanoes are the reason for both mass mortalities and the preservation of fossils. The volcanoes spewed huge amounts of volcanic ash into the sky. As it settled back to earth it poisoned the lakes killing many animals at once. The animals fell to the bottom of the lake and were covered by the ash. The fine grain of of the settlements made for excellent preservation.

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INTERESTED IN MORE INFORMATION? IF SO, YOU MAY WANT TO CHECK OUT OUR OTHER SITES:
https://www.fossils-facts-and-finds.com - An educational site about fossils and geologic time
https://www.rocksandminerals4u.com - An educational site about rocks, minerals, and geology.

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