Common Fossils of Virginia
Fossils are the preserved remains or imprints of once living plants or animals. These relics hold the key to understanding portions of Virginia’s geologic past. Click here if you would like more details about fossil collecting in Virginia.
Click on each image below for a more detailed view.
Pelecypods, also called bivalves, are soft-bodied animals that secrete a hard shell with two sides, such as an oyster or clam. Pelecypods are abundant in the Cenozoic sedimentary deposits of Virginia’s Coastal Plain. Virginia’s state fossil is the bivalve Chesapecten jeffersonius, pictured here.
A variety of marine invertebrate, brachiopods are fossils that once littered the ocean floor. Fossil brachiopods can be found in the Paleozoic rocks of Virginia’s Valley and Ridge Province.
Ferns Ferns are vascular non-flowering plants. Impressions of ferns can be found in Late Paleozoic rocks of the Valley and Ridge Province as well as the Appalachian Plateau, where these fossils are associated with coal beds.
Coral is the hard calcareous skeleton formed by the polyps of bottom-dwelling marine organisms. Some type of corals are formed by colonies, others occur as single individuals. Colonial corals can be found in the Cenozoic sediments of the Coastal Plain; individual and colonial corals can be found in the Paleozoic sedimentary rocks of the Valley and Ridge Province.
Gastropods are mollusks such as snails that secrete a single shell, usually spiraled. Cenozoic gastropods, such as the high-spired Turritella, are found on the Coastal Plain, while Paleozoic gastropods such as the low-spired Maclurites, are found in the Valley and Ridge Province.
Teeth from a wide variety of sharks are found in the Cenozoic sedimentary deposits of Virginia’s Coastal Plain. Several times during the Cenozoic Era this area was covered by a shallow sea.
Skolithos Trace Fossils
The oldest common fossils in Virginia, these are traces of the tubes inhabited by primitive worms living along a Paleozoic shoreline. Found along the western flank of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Trilobites are members of an extinct group of Arthropods that scuttled across the sea floor throughout the Paleozoic Era. Characterized by a three-lobed skeleton, a variety of trilobite fossils can be found in the rocks of the Valley and Ridge Province.
Whale bones are frequently found in the Cenozoic sedimentary deposits of Virginia’s Coastal Plain. Several times during the Cenozoic this area was covered by a shallow sea. Whale bones are often associated with shark teeth.