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Fossil Identification Guide for Cretaceous Fossils on New Jersey

Fossil Cretaceous Identification Guide for the the Big Brook Area of New Jersey

Thumbnails of Types of Cretaceous Fossils

Click on the type of fossil or scroll down to browse:
Or go back to the MAIN Big Brook Page


Dinosaur remains that floated offshore during the cretaceous are sometimes found with the marine fossils. They are scarce finds. The most common dinosaur material found are Hadrosaur teeth. They are very small and are often very worn. Some examples of Dinosaur material are shown below.

Hadrosaur Teeth
Duck Billed Dinosaur

These are Hadrosaur teeth, the more common Dinosaur find in the brooks of New Jersey. All dinosaure material is scarce.

Great Marine Reptile

The Mosasaur was a great marine reptile that thrived during the Cretaceous. It was a top predator of the seas. The most common species of Mosasaur found in Monmouth County is M. conodon, a medium sized Mosasaur.
To learn all about these Great Marine Reptiles of the Cretaceous, go to the Mosasaur Gallery .
Identification:Mosasaur teeth superficially look like crocodile teeth. However, mosasaur teeth have a distinct cutting edge (seen in the top center view). The cutting edge is the easiest way to distinguish mosasaur teeth from crocodile teeth.

Mosasaur conodon tooth. This tooth is chipped up, but most of the enamel is in great condition. Another few days in the brook, and it probably would have split apart.


Shark teeth are by far the most common cretaceous fossils found in the Big Brook area. A careful searching the gravel bars will produce at least a few teeth.
To learn all about Sharks, go to the Shark Gallery .

Archaeolamna kopingensis (Davis 1890)
Extinct Mackerel Shark

The above is an example of a Archaeolamna kopingensis lateral tooth

These are more examples of Archaeolamna kopingensis fossil shark teeth

Cretolamna appendiculata (Agassiz 1843) Extinct Mackerel Shark

Cretolamna appendiculata looks like a small Cretaceous version of the Paleocene and Eocene Otodus obliquus. It is thought by many that Otodus obliquus evolved from Cretolamna appendiculata sometime in the late cretaceous.

This species became extinct sometime in the Paleocene, while the genus became extinct in the Eocene.

The above is an example of a Cretolamna appendiculata lateral tooth

These are more examples of Cretolamna appendiculata fossil shark teeth. The largest is 1" (25mm).

Scapanorhynchus texanus (Romer 1852)
Extinct Goblin Shark

Having a flat snout that protrudes from the head, Goblin sharks look odd. This species became extinct near the end of the Cretaceous, while the genus lasted into the Eocene. A different genus of goblin shark still lives today, the deepwater Mitsukurina genus, although it is rarely seen.

Goblin teeth are probably the most common cretaceous teeth found in the Big Brook area of NJ.
They can also reach sizes of over 2".

To learn more about Goblin Sharks, and to see pictures of the actual sharks, go to the Goblin Shark Page.

Identification: A defining characteristics of goblin anterior teeth are their striations on the lingual side of the tooth that continue onto the root (in unworn specimens).

The above is an example of an anterior Goblin Shark tooth.
It still has some iron attached to it.

The above tooth is a an example of a lateral tooth.

Notice how different the lateral teeth are compared to anterior teeth. Lateral teeth are significantly wider and flatter, they often have a cusplet or two, and the striations have all but vanished.

This tooth is 1.12" (28 mm).

Here are several examples of anterior and lateral teeth

Extinct Crow Sharks

This well known group of extinct sharks have distinctive teeth. The genus was only present in the Cretaceous. Out of the numerous species of squalicorax, two are represented from the Cretaceous of New

Squalicorax kaupi (Agassiz, 1843)
Extinct Crow Shark

Identification: This species is smaller than S. pristodontus, and has a distinct notch on the distil shoulder of their crowns.

This is a profile, lingual, and labial view of a S. kaupi tooth

Above are more examples of S. kaupi Crow shark teeth.
The largest is 0.6" (15mm).

Squalicorax pristodontus (Agassiz, 1843)
Extinct Crow Shark

Identification: This species have larger teeth than S. kaupi, and does not have a distinct notch on the distil shoulder of their crowns.

This is a profile, lingual, and labial view of a S. pristodontus tooth

Above are more examples of S. pristodontus Crow shark teeth.
The largest is ~.95" (~24mm).

Squatina hassei (Leriche 1929)
Extinct Angel Shark

Squantina hassei is the Cretaceous species of the Angel shark.
Like all species of Angel Shark, the teeth are tiny. They are often less than 1/4" (6 mm).

This is a stream worn specimen of an angel shark tooth

These are different views of this tiny angel shark tooth.

Squatina Vertebra
Angel Shark Vertebra

This is a vertebra from a squantina shark. Angel shark vertebra, for some reason, always seem to have either the cartilage or the prismatic cartilage marks all over them (those are the little hexagon dots all over the vert in the image). This vertebra has been donated to the American Museum of Natural History and is specimen number: "AMNH FF 22425"

Skate and Ray Fossils

Ray fossils are often found in the New Jersey area. The most interesting ray fossils found are from Sawfish.

Ischyrhiza mira (Leidy)

Sawfish rostral teeth (the teeth that stick out of the sawfishes' snout) can be found on occasion at Big Brook.
These are three teeth that were found within a couple inches of each other on a gravel bar.

The above are examples of sawfish teeth found at Big Brook

Brachyrhizodus wichitaensis (Roemer)
Myliobatoid Ray

Isolated teeth from this ray are fairly common at the site. This image shows 3 views of a tooth that attached to the side of the ray plate.

Bony Fish Fossils

Fish fossils are fairly common. Usually the fossils found are pieces of fish vertebra

Anomaeodus sp.
Pychodontid fish

Pycnodontid fish have a crushing mouth plate. The teeth, when not found isolated, look like rows of paving stones. Isolated teeth are round on one side, and hollow on the other side. The image a below shows both sides of the teeth.

Pychodontid fish have a battery of flat crushing teeth that enabled them to feed on crustaceans and mollusks.

Pychodontid crushing teeth can easily be confused with some of the worn gravel in the area. However, the bottoms of the crushing teeth are hollowed out. The round looking teeth are often overlooked due to the fact that they look like small pebbles.

Hadrodus sp.

Hadrodus fish have a crushing teeth, similar to Pycnodontid, however the crushing teeth are very small and circular. They also have gill teeth the make rows toward the back of thier mouths. The image below shows examples of these gill teeth.

Hadrodus sp. oral teeth

Enchodus petrosus (Cope)
Saber-Tooth Salmon

You've heard of Saber-Tooth Lions of the Pliocene, but have you ever heard of a Saber-Tooth Salmon from the Cretaceous?

These large monster salmon are a predecessor to modern salmon. However, they had large saber-like teeth that could reach over 3" long. Enchodus became extinct in the Paleocene, which is good... I would hate to go fishing and catch one of those!

These are two sabers from the salmon. The larger one is a bit beat up.

Fish Vertebra

Fish vertebra can be common in the sediments. They are usually smaller than this example.

Fish Vertebra from the Big Brook Area

Invertebrate Fossils

Invertebrate fossils are commonly found. These include Belemnites and other types of Cephalopods.

Belemnitella americana
Straight Shelled Cephalopod

A Belemnite is a type of extinct cephalopod. It looked kind of like a squid. The amber colored belemnite fossils found here are the internal shells of these squid like animals.

Belemnites are scarce if collecting at Ramanessin Brook and some other areas. However, at certain spots along Big Brook, they can be found in number.

Here are more examples of Belemnite fossils from Big Brook

Ammonite Fragments

Ammonite fragments are a somewhat common find. They are easy to identify due to the suture patterns.
Whole ammonites are very difficult to find.

Ammonite fragments are usually an inch or less in size.

Protocallianassa mortoni (Pilsbry, 1901)
Ghost Shimp Burrows - Trace Fossils

Some layers in the Navensink trench are chalk full of fossilized borrows from invertebrates.

The long tube like structures are fossilized invertebrate borrows. They are probably from Ghost shrimp. Their borrows filled in with iron rich sediments.

Recommended Equipment and Books for New Jersey Fossils and Paleontology:

Recommended Equipment for Big Brook

SE 13 1/4 Inch Stackable Classifier Gold Prospecting Pan - 1/4 Inch Stainless Steel Mesh Sifting Pan, Green

This is a 13.25-Inch diameter and 3.5-Inch deep sifter. It's lightweight and the 1/4" screen is ideal for shark tooth sifting at the brooks. It is also under regulation size so you won't get fined! There is also a 1/8" screen version for the really small stuff, but I recommend the 1/4" version.

iunio Camping Shovel,Shovel Folding, Portable, Multitool, Foldable Entrenching Tool, Collapsible Spade, for Backpacking, Trenching, Hiking, Survival, Car Emergency (Basic E-Tool)

This is a small protable folding shovel to go with the small sifter. The blade is 6 inch regulation length, so it's good to go for in the brooks! Just remember to get this 17" length one, as the others have blades that are too large for the regulations.

Recommended Books for New Jersey Fossils and Paleontology:

When Dinosaurs Roamed New Jersey
William Gallagher, 1997

Explore New Jersey's geological journey from Cambrian seas to the Pleistocene Ice Age in 'When Dinosaurs Roamed.' Gallagher unveils fossil hunters' tales, ecological insights, and scientific controversies, offering a concise and captivating glimpse into the state's prehistoric wonders. Although it was written in 1997, it is still the best book on NJ paleontology out there!

101 American Fossil Sites You've Gotta See
Albert B Dickas, 2018

This is a great updated fossil sites book with at least one fossil site in each state. Each site is broken into 2 pages. One has detailed information, such as directions, GPS coordinates, formation information, etc... The other is dedicated to images of the site and the fossils found there. It also gives information on fossil 'viewing' sites such as dinosaur trackways, museums, and active excavations.
Plus, my fossil photos are peppered throughout this book, including the Big Brook site!

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