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Fossil Identification Guide for Fish and Ray Fossils of Aurora and Coastal North Carolina


Fossil Identification Guide for Fish and Ray Fossils of Aurora and Coastal North Carolina

Fossil Fish and Ray Identification Guide for Aurora and Coastal North Carlina - Pungo River and Yorktown Formations.

Identifications of many of the fish on this page are based on Purdy et al, (2001) "The Neogene Sharks, Rays, and Bony Fishes from Lee Creek Mine, Aurora, North Carolina"

Besides the abundant shark fossils found in coastal North Carolina, other fish are also found. This page includes Bony Fish and Rays.

Click on the type of vertebrate fossil or scroll down to browse:

Osteichthyes Class
Bony Fish

Ray Fossils

Ray fossils that can be found include Teeth (most common), Scutes, and Tail Barbs.

Rays have modified teeth that form flat crushing plates. These crushing plates are adapted for eating mollusks and crustaceans on the sea floor. They suck their prey up like a vacuum and simply crush them between their upper and lower crushing plates.

A modern ray jaw, including the upper and lower crushing mouthplates. This one is on display at the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

Myliobatidae family - Eagle Rays
Aetomylaeus sp.
Smooth-tail Eagle Ray partial crushing plate

This is a partial ray crushing plate from the Calvert Cliffs of Maryland. These same fossils can be found in North Carolina. Usually they are fragmented. No North Carolina Ray material has been added to this galley yet.

Bony Fish

Acanthocybium solandri

Wahoo dentary (jaw) fragment

This is a Wahoo jaw fragment. It's approximately 1.75" (44mm) in size.

Acipenser cf. A. oxyrinchus

Sturgeon scute
Sturgeon are covered in bony scutes rather than scales. Scutes and scute fragments are relatively common in Yorktown tailings and the fossil piles in front of the Aurora Fossil Museum.

This is a complete fossil sturgeon scute. It would have been located toward the belly of the fish. It's approximately 1.5" (38mm) in size.

Fossil fragments of Sturgeon scutes are much more common than complete ones. They have a unique texture which allows for easy identification. The larger scute is approximately 1 3/4" (43mm) in size.

Aluterus sp.

Filefish Vertebrae
Filefish vertebrae seem to be some of the more common fish fossils found in the Pungo River and Yorktown formations.

The two vertebrae in the bottom of the image are fused together, which is a common occurence with filefish.

Chilomycterus sp.

Burrfish mouthplates
Burrfish include the Porcupine fish.
The crushing mouthplates of these fish are unusual looking and easy to identify. They are found in both the Pungo River and the Yorktown formations. Upper and lower mouthplates are easily distinguishable. Uppers are round, while lowers are triangular in shape, as seen in the images below.

This is an upper mouthplate from a Burrfish

The two leftmost fossils on the bottom row are lower Burrfish muthplates.

Makaira sp.
Billfish - Marlin

Marlin Rostrum
Filefish vertebrae seem to be some of the more common fish fossils found in the Pungo River and Yorktown formations.

This is lower rostrum of a Marlin. A rostrum is part of the snout. The fossil is about 4 3/4" (121mm) in length.

Megalops ?atlanticus

Tarpon Vertebra
Go to the Tarpon Fossil Gallery page for images of associated Tarpon vertebra from the Calvert Cliffs of Maryland.

Merluccius sp.

Jaw section of a Hake

This is a seciton of jaw from a hake. Notice some teeth are still embedded in the jaws. Hake are common in the Yorktown formation.

Prionotus sp.

Searobin skull element

This unusual looking fossil is part of the skull of a Searobin.

Sarda sp.

Bonita skull element "snout"

These are parts of the snout of a Bonita fish

Sphoeroides hyperostosus
Puffer Fish

Postcleithrum of a puffer fish
A postcleithrum is one of the dermal bones of the pectoral girdle
A pectoral girdle is the bony arch that supports the forelimbs of a vertebrate.

Suboperculum of a puffer fish
A suboperculum is the lower opercular bone
An opercular bone is a bone that serves as the hard flap, or cover, over the gill slits in fish.

Thunnus sp.

Tuna Vertebra

These are vertebra of tuna. They are easy to identify due to their shape and size.

Tuna Hyplural Bones
The hyplural bones are fan shaped bones where the caudal fin rays attach. They are often fused together in larger fish.

These are vertebra of tuna. They are easy to identify due to their shape and size.

Fish Vertebra

Bony fish vertebrae are abundant. Identifying them to a genus can be a bit tricky

These are vertebra of tuna. They are easy to identify due to their shape and size.

Recommended Books for North Carolina Fossil Collecting:

Shark Tooth Hunting on the Carolina Coast

by Ashley Oliphant, 2015

This is a great field guide for locating and identifying fossil shark teeth on the beaches of North and South Carolina. It is filled with clear photographs and easy to read descriptions.
There's not too many books about North Carolina Sharks teeth. This one is pretty good!

Fossil Shark Teeth of the World

A great book for identifying all those teeth. This book is laid out "as simple as possible." It's ease of use and small size makes it great to carry during collecting trips. This book shows teeth from around the globe, but all the North Carolina teeth can be found in it.

Get Your Very Own Megalodon Tooth:

These are Authentic Megalodon teeth sold by Fossil Era , a reputable fossil dealer (that I personally know) who turned his fossil passion into a business. His Megalodon teeth come in all sizes and prices, from small and inexpensive to large muesum quality teeth. Each tooth has a detailed descriptions and images that include its collecting location and formation. If you are looking for a megalodon tooth, browse through these selections!

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