Ammonites: A General Overview

This article is in the series Concerning Giants
By Phil Eyden
Note: Phil welcomes discussion on this article in the Cephalopod Fossils forum.

Ammonites are extinct cephalopods and are among the most abundant and beautiful of all fossils. Although not as glamorous as Tyrannosaurus rex or as dramatic as Velociraptor, these extinct creatures are nonetheless quite interesting animals. Although most people have heard of them and they are probably the most widely recognised non-dinosaur fossils, it seems that ammonite information is not easy to come across, outside scientific literature. So here is a short overview of these ancient creatures - I hope you find it interesting!

First, a few facts about ammonites.

From where do we get the name 'ammonite'? It derives from ancient Egyptian mythology, from the oracle-god Amun who had the form of a ram. This deity was adopted into later Greek mythology as Ammon, the ammonite supposedly resembling the horns on either side of Ammon's head.

Ammonites are some of the most widespread of all fossils and are found throughout the world. They are extremely useful to palaeontologists as the thousands of individual species are easily identifiable to the trained eye. Since species of ammonite evolved and became extinct so rapidly, researchers find them extremely useful tools for dating rock strata. A palaeontologist working in one part of the world can determine the exact age of his sample by examining the precise species of ammonite found in that layer and comparing it with other examples elsewhere. If an identical species is present in a sample no matter how separated geographically, then the rocks must...
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About the Author
Phil joined the staff in April 2003. He collects fossils as a hobby, frequently plundering a quarry at Folkestone in the U.K. He has a degree in British archaeology and works for a government department at Dover in England.


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