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Handbook for fossil hunters launched - 17/02/2010

A new handbook on fossil hunting in New Zealand, released this week, gives enthusiasts a wealth of information on where to go and what to look for to find a treasure trove of fossils.

fossil hunter book

Published by Random House, the 200-page book features 28 accessible locations around New Zealand where kids and their families can find fossils.

The richly illustrated book, which retails at $40, is written by paleontologists James Crampton and Marianna Terezow of GNS Science.

The fossils people are likely to find range from 230 million years old to less than one million years old and include marine shells and crabs, plants, and animal bones and teeth. There are also footprints and other tracks left by ancient animals.

Dr Crampton said as a professional paleontologist, he was often asked by members of the public where they could go to look for fossils. Many people did not realise how accessible fossil locations were in New Zealand.

"Until now, there has been no reference guide for amateur fossil hunters. This book can be carried in a pack or it can live in the glove-box of a car. It's designed for practical use and enjoyment.

"Many kids go through a stage where they are fascinated by fossils and this book will hopefully satisfy their passion."

The book features locations from throughout New Zealand from Hokianga in Northland to Curio Bay in Southland. The locations were carefully chosen to represent an even geographical spread, easy accessibility and safety.

"The sites also encompass all the main fossil types and a spread of geological ages."

Dr Crampton said fossils were brilliant vehicles for communicating the thrill of discovery as well as biology, ecology, evolution, extinction, climate change, and finding natural resources such as petroleum and minerals.

"On another level, fossils involve many branches of science including chemistry, geology, mathematics and physics."

One of the featured localities in the book is the Vanished World fossil trail in North Otago, which is recognised internationally as an outstanding area for people interested in fossils.

The trail features 19 main sites over a distance of about 80km. It enables people to visualise an ancient world of giant penguins, enormous sharks and whales, and submarine volcanoes.

The book includes three pull-out posters by well-known artist Dave Gunson, which bring the prehistoric world of New Zealand to life. There is also a glossary explaining geological terms, plus detailed driving directions for each location.

Link to interview on national radio with Kim Hill (streaming audio).
Mp3 download - ogg download.