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Name: B. J. B.
Status: educator
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999-2001

I am going to teach a unit on Fossils and Dinosaurs soon and have been collecting fossils of a great variety to present in class. I received two large 4" x 1" teeth or tusks in a lot of fossils. THey could not be identified by their owner who collected them in the Mississippi River area. How can they be identified as to what kind of mammal they are from? They appear to be ancient fossil grinding molars with one end showing holes for dental roots to the jawbone, and the other possible grinding surface, like for ruminants. Both appear to have an ivory or enamel surface and are deeply ribbed, vertically. I have looked exhaustively thru online sites and fossil identification sites with no success. Not looking for appraisal or to sell, just to get information so my students will be inspired. Any suggestions on who to contact? Can't find a good paleontology site to ask this question, nor even any fossil identification books to help. Please suggest my next steps.

Fossil identification is not something that can be done easily on-line. The age of the fossil will be an important piece of information as well as where the fossil was found. Your only alternative to identification is to seek an expert at a museum that will be willing to address your request. This in itself is difficult for these requests are often numerous and museum personnel are often reluctant to participate. Many fossils are not really , but rather bone fragments of recent animals.

The other alternative is to request help from the zoology department of a local university. They may have paleontologists that may be willing to assist you.

When you do make your requests, be up-front about the fact that you are a teacher. This often brings upon a greater level of willingness to help.

Steve Sample

Try the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Give them a call and you might get someone who can help.

J. Elliott

Go to a university and ask a paleontologist or to a museum for the same. It is not easy to identify fossils.


Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Office of Science

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