A Treasure Trove of Fossils
Abundant fossils in Big Bend, including some found nowhere else in the world, record the existence and demise of dinosaurs and the flourishing of mammals, enabling us to ponder evolution and our impermanence in the world. The park preserves a largely intact 130 million year slice of geologic time, including the dinosaur extinction event.
Some of Big Bend's fossil finds include bones of a giant pterosaur, the largest known flying creature of all time with a 36-foot wingspan, as well as the massive skull of the giant horned dinosaur Bravoceratops (only discovered in 2013, and only known from Big Bend). In addition to numerous dinosaurs, giant crocodiles, and other reptiles, the park has abundant fossilized wood, early mammals, and a wide variety of marine vertebrates and invertebrates. In fact, with over 1,200 known fossil species, Big Bend's fossil record is one of the most diverse in the National Park System.
Famous Fossils from Big Bend
What are Fossils?Fossils (Latin for "dug up") are the remains or traces of animals and plants that lived in a past geological time.
Skeletons, shells, and leaves can become buried and preserved to form fossils. Animal tracks and burrows are "trace" fossils that are useful in deciphering ancient animal behavior. Fossils are usually found in layers of sedimentary rock such as limestone, sandstone, and shale. You can view ancient seashells embedded in the limetestone along the Santa Elena Canyon nature trail.
Protect the AncientsThe ancient fossil stories of Big Bend's past are among the park's most priceless treasures. If you discover a fossil, enjoy the experience of seeing the remains of ancient life. Do not dig, disturb, or collect any fossils from Big Bend National Park; instead make careful notes of their location and report them to a park ranger or visitor center. Remember, federal law protects all resources in Big Bend National Park. It is illegal to collect fossils or rocks. Please take only pictures.
Last updated: June 2, 2022