Fossils of Northern Ireland

What is a Fossil?

 Fossils are the remains of long-dead animals and plants found in rocks of the Earth's crust. Soft tissues usually rot away quickly and so most fossils are of the hard parts, such as bones, teeth and shells. The marks, such as footprints or burrows made by an animal and now preserved in the rock are also a type of fossil called a trace fossil.

What Fossils are there in the Ulster Museum?

The collections of the Ulster Museum contain many thousands of fossils from all around the world, from tiny microfossils sifted from the mud beneath the city itself, to complete dinosaur skeletons from North America. Only a tiny fraction of the huge fossil collections can actually be seen in the public galleries, but we try to ensure that most specimens worthy of display receive an 'airing' from time to time, either in temporary exhibitions or during various museum events through the year.

Many fossils in the Museum's collections may be dull to look at, and hence are rarely seen on display, but are scientifically important and have been studied by experts from around the world. The Ulster Museum holds particularly important collections of brachiopods, fish teeth and other fossils from the Carboniferous, sponges from the Cretaceous, and Paleocene plants.

Amateur fossil collectors often make some of the most important discoveries and have made important contributions to the Ulster Museum's collections. Acquisitions in recent years include fragments of an unusual ammonite, Radstockiceras, from the Lower Jurassic of White Park Bay, and three small dinosaur bones, also from the Lower Jurassic of Co. Antrim.

We are always pleased to identify any rocks or fossils that you might have found; just bring them in to the Museum for us to see.

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