Author: Katie Burden

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Fossil hunters can now quickly identify the ancient plant and animal fossils hidden beneath their feet using a new free mobile app from the Natural History Museum.

Whether seeking ammonites along Lyme Regis beach, marine reptiles in Whitby or trilobites in Wales, the Fossil Explorer app offers a field guide to the common fossils of Britain. It suggests likely fossil matches based on where you find them, giving a list of fossils known to occur in rocks of the same age.

The app compliments the Jurassic Coast Fossil Finder which is a database of around 1,000 fossils from the Jurassic Coast Museums. This Fossil Finder shows you example specimens of fossils that have been found along the 95 miles of World Heritage coastline in Dorset and East Devon. You can search for particular fossils by common name, or browse the database by type or geological time period.

The Fossil Explorer app taps you directly into the combined expertise and knowledge of the Natural History Museum and British Geological Survey. It offers details about more than 1,200 fossil specimens as well as local geology through its linked geological map.

Introductory facts and illustrations help beginner fossil hunters get started, while specimen details enable more experienced fossil collectors to delve deeper.

Ian Owens, Director of Science at the Natural History Museum, hopes the app will encourage budding citizen scientists around the country: “We aim to inspire a new generation of explorers and get people thinking differently about the natural world. This app unlocks the Museum’s vault of data, making it accessible to all. As the app develops, we plan for people to later be able to send back to us information about their fossils finds, actively contributing to current scientific research.”

Features of the Fossil Explorer app include:

  • an interactive map of Britain and geological map overlay
  • illustrations and data for more than 1,200 fossil specimens in the Museum collection
  • introductory information about nearly 90 fossil groups and more than 1,150 species
  • fossil content researched and checked by Natural History Museum palaeontologists
  • additional information about local geology provided by the British Geological Survey

You can use your device’s geolocation technology to set your current location on the Fossil Explorer app’s interactive map, or select an area you would like to explore elsewhere in the country.

The app is available for iOS and Android devices and currently covers England, Scotland and Wales. It requires a WiFi or mobile network connection for the interactive map to work.NHM fossil explorer app Icon

Download Fossil Explorer on the App Store

Get Fossil Explorer on Google Play

This is an early version of the app so any fossil hunters using the app are invited to feedback through a short survey. Please click on the link from the ‘More’ section of the app.

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