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Rock your world with fossil finds.

AS the summer looms large, chances are you're already compiling a list of things to do to keep everyone in the household entertained.

After all, even if you're away for a two-week holiday, there are many more weeks to fill.

Hunting for fossils and bones is one of the National Trust's '50 things to do before you're 11 3/4'. So if you think it's a pastime only for the professionals or 'old fossils', then think again.

"With fossils you are collecting objects that could be millions of years old, embedded in materials that were created in tropical or Antarctic seas, incredible," says Chris Stratton, NT learning officer.

He and his learning officers and rangers have helped to put together a guide for families and fully-grown fossil enthusiasts.

And Chris adds: "Your first fossil find may be the start of a journey taking you to all sorts of exciting places."

s." So what is a fossil? Fossils are the preserved remains of plants or animals. For such remains to be considered fossils, scientists have decided they have to be over 10,000 years old. There are two main types of fossils, body fossils and trace fossils. Body fossils are the preserved remains of a plant or animal's body. Trace fossils are the remains of the activity of an animal, such as preserved trackways, footprints, fossilised egg shells, and nests.

So if you are getting ready to go on a fossil hunt, what do you need to take with you? | A fossil guide book can be helpful if you want to see what the whole fossil and original creatures looked like. "People often only find bits so this helps you to relate your fossil to a wider history," says Chris.

A magnifying glass: 5x or 10x magnification is best for fossil hunting.

Anold toothbrush is handy for brushing off mud.

Don't forget your camera. In protected areas you cannot take fossils away with you but photographs can always be added to your collection.

But remember, don't take any hammers with you as you could damage fossils or, in the worst case scenario, cause precarious cliffs to crumble.

One of the best places to search for fossils is on the beach, where the sea has washed them out and left them for you to find, says Sarah Kennedy, a National Trust ranger.

But there are a few rules that all fossil-hunters need to follow.

As long as you're not in a protected area you can pick up small fossils that are lying around on the ground.

Do not remove any fossils from rocks or cliffs.

Large fossils are best left for all to enjoy.

Please report any rare finds to museums or your closest visitor centre.

If you are in a Site of Specific Scientific Interest please follow any rules they might have. They are there to protect geology for future generations.

NT says: "Finding fossils does require a bit of patience so children might need reminding that they aren't guaranteed to find anything and will have to look at rocks for more than a few seconds."

Need to know | Paleontology is the branch of biology that studies the forms of life that existed in former geologic periods, primarily by studying fossils.

| The word fossil comes from the Latin word fossilis, which means, dug up.

Most fossils are excavated from sedimentary rock layers (rock that has formed from sediment, such as sand, mud, and small pieces of rock).

Over long periods of time, these small pieces of debris are compressed (squeezed) and are buried under more and more layers of sediment that piles up on top of it.

Eventually, they are compressed into sedimentary rock.

| The fossil of a bone doesn''t have any bone in it! A fossilised object has the same shape as the original object, but is chemically more like a rock.

The oldest fossil known is of a blue-green algae that lived on some rocks in South Africa 3.2 billion years ago.


This lucky youngster has found a rock with a fossil in it on a beach in Yorkshire. Inset below, an ammonite - one of the best known fossils
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 24, 2014
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