Fossil Molar Identification
Name: B. J. B.
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
The other alternative is to request help from the zoology department of a
local university. They may have paleontologists that may be willing to
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.
Try the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Give them a call and you
might get someone who can help.
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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Update: June 2012