The Great Lakes are a treasure trove of cool fossils that can be found along the lake shores and inland. Millions of years ago the area was covered in tropical seawater. Many of the fossils found in the area today are from coral reefs and ancient sea creatures. Fossil collecting is a great family activity that is both educational and fun. Below are some common fossils that can be found in the Great Lakes region.
The official State Stone since 1965 and the stone that Northern Michigan is most famous for is the Petoskey stone. A Petoskey stone is actually a fossilized pre-historic coral known as a Favosite that lived in the Michigan waters during the Devonian time (about 350 million years ago).
Honeycomb Coral/Charlevoix Stones
The Charlevoix stone is also a Favosite but it’s coral skeleton is much smaller and more tightly packed than a Petoskey stone. The center is smaller and lighter in color than it’s cousin the Petoskey Stone.
Halysite which means chain coral fossils are commonly found in Michigan rock formations and date back to over 400 million years ago. Each round opening in would have been occupied by an individual living polyp. Their narrow sides look like links of a chain.
Horn Corals are from the extinct order of corals called Rugosa. They got their name because Rugose means wrinkled and the outside of these corals have a wrinkled appearance. It would grow in a long cone shape similar to a bull’s horn.
Trilobites are three-lobed in a lengthwise direction. They died out toward the end of the Paleozoic era and have no living descendants. Lobsters, crabs are remotely related in particular the Horseshoe crab. Trilobites dominated the former sea and the Cambrian period is call the “age of trilobites”.
Brachiopods are a bivalved shell creature that resemble clams. Brachiopods were present in Cambrian time to present, with only a few species remaining. Sometimes brachiopods are called lamp shells because a side-view of many resembles “Aladdin’s lamp.
Also known as sea lilies, they belong to a large group of spiny-skinned marine invertebrates. Familiar forms are starfishes, sea urchins, and sand dollars. They lived only during the Paleozoic period and lived in great numbers in the vicinity of coral reefs.
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