Fossils in Florida: Where to Hunt for Them with a Permit and What You Might Find

L. Cane

Human beings arguably have a fascination with the prehistoric past. It's interesting to think about the ancient plants and animals that roamed our planet long ago.

The state of Florida shares this fascination. The sunshine state has plenty of places where you can search for (and hopefully find) permitted fossils. It also offers museums where you can learn about and observe them. And, because Florida has no shortage of themed attractions, Florida also has some dinosaur-themed attractions.

Florida has More Fossils than Many Other States: With some of Florida's museums and attractions focused on fossils, it's no wonder that Florida has recently been found to be one of five states with the most fossils.

The website Stacker's analysis of the Paleobiology Database found that the following states had the most fossils:

#1. California

#2. Wyoming

#3. Montana

#4. New Mexico

#5. Florida:

Why are There So Many Fossils in Florida?: According to the website Fossil Hunting Tours, one of the reasons that Florida is rich in fossils is because it hasn't had earthquakes and volcano disturbances like many other states. Another reason is Florida's river system, since specimens that are quickly covered by sediment fossilize well.

Where Can You Hunt for Fossils in Florida With a Permit?: According to Prehistoric Florida.org, below are some of the best places to find fossils in Florida:

  • Gainesville's Hogtown Creek and Possum Creek are popular sites for shark's teeth.
  • Visitors to Jacksonville Beach at Mickler Landing may find fossilized tiger shark teeth and the bones of horses and sloths.
  • Venice Beach is known as the "Shark Tooth Capital of the World" and is also a very popular area to find bones and teeth from mammals and sharks. (The waves commonly wash new fossils onto the shore.)
  • When Peace River is shallow and clear, it is easy to search the bottom for teeth, bones, or even mammoth teeth. (Please be aware that this area can have alligators.) Shell Creek, a tributary of Peace River also has fossils and also arrowheads and spear points.
  • Charlie Creek in the small town of Gardner is a good place to search for shark's teeth.

Note that with the exception of shark's teeth, you'll need a permit to collect vertebrate fossils on lands owned by the state of Florida. You can obtain the permit through the Florida Museum of Natural History for $5 per year. You can get the permit here. Florida does not allow collecting in state parks.

What Types of Fossils Can You Find in Florida?: Florida was underwater when dinosaurs roamed the earth, so you won't find dinosaur bones in Florida. But, according to the Museum of Arts and Sciences, you can find evidence of extinct sharks, ice age mammoths, mastodon, bison, camels, saber-toothed cats, and giant ground sloths.

Dinosaur-Themed Attractions in Florida: Plant City offers a themed Dinosaur World attraction, Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry features a huge dinosaur out front and currently has a dinosaur exhibit, and Orlando's Leu Garden has had a recurring "dinosaur invasion" exhibit in the past.

Fossil Exhibits in Florida's Museums: Those who want to see or educate themselves about fossils have a few museums to choose from, including the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Cocoa Beach's Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, and the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History. Mulberry's Phosphate Museum in Polk County also features fossils.

Here's an informative video from the Florida Museum which highlights their "Florida Fossils" permanent exhibition.

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