In many inland areas of the UK, natural exposures are rare
and quarries often provide the only source of material for
the fossil collector or more serious palaeontologist to study.
Such quarries tend to be regularly visited by local geological
societies and interested individuals. For the researcher,
fossils provide the means to correlate rocks between quarries,
or on a regional or even worldwide scale. Anyone using a
hammer or chisel to collect fossils must always wear protective
clothing including eye protection to avoid injury from flying
fragments of rock.
Fossils are normally the preserved hard parts of both animals
and plants, and include bones, shells, teeth, fish scales and
woody tissue. They range in size from microscopic plant spores
up to the remains of the largest dinosaurs. Hard-rock quarries
are perhaps the best hunting ground for fossils. Those in Silurian,
Carboniferous, Jurassic and Cretaceous limestones,
sandstones and mudstones can be particularly productive. However,
sand and gravel quarries may also provide exciting fossils,
like those of large, (geologically) recently-extinct mammals,
such as the woolly mammoth.
Example of a trilobite (above).
Quarries also provide the more serous palaeontologist with
material to determine evolutionary trends. The fossil sea urchins
in the Chalk are an excellent example - they evolved quickly
during the time that the Chalk was being deposited with different
species restricted to particular zones within the Chalk.
Example of an echinoid (right).
Example of fossilised ammonites.