Fossils on the shore at barns Ness, East Lothian, Forth and Borders Area. ©Lorne Gill/SNH. For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or www.nature.scot

Fossils

Scotland has a remarkable diversity of fossils, which tell us about life here as far back as 1,200 million years ago.

Fossils are the remains and traces of ancient animals and plants preserved in rock. Our main fossil record begins 542 million years ago, with the emergence of the first life forms with hard body parts (which preserve better than soft parts).

Scottish fossils help us to understand the:

  • evolution of life on Earth
  • changing geographies and environments that existed during Scotland’s varied geological history

Hugh Miller and other Scottish geologists active in the 19th century established basic geological principles using fossils from Scottish localities. Today, these fossil localities are of historical and cultural importance.

Scotland’s fossil heritage is important for:

  • science
  • education
  • recreation

Its wide range of users ranges from research scientists and university students to commercial collectors and the general public.

To conserve this finite and irreplaceable resource, it’s vital that anyone collecting fossils does so responsibly. Always follow the Scottish Fossil Code.

Additional guidance applies if you’re fossil collecting on Skye, Scotland’s ‘Dinosaur Island’, areas of which additional special protection by means of a Nature Conservation Order (NCO).

Find out more about protecting our geodiversity.

Learn more about fossil collecting in Scotland on the Scottish Geology website.