Guide to Fossil Classification

Table 0.1 summarizes the kingdoms in the Linnaean classification system that we will follow for this course. Most of the groups we will be examining are part of Kingdom Animalia, but there are a few exceptions.


Table 0.1. Kingdoms in the Linnaean Classification System
Click here to see this table as a PDF file.

The laboratory exercises for this course will focus on the major marine invertebrate groups that evolved since the Precambrian, listed below.

You will be responsible for naming and describing the significance (geological or evolutionary) of each bolded group, and in some cases identifying them from fossilized remains (also underlined). Other groups are listed below for which you will examine fossils, but are not expected to remember classification, or are provided for context only.

This can seem like a daunting amount of information to remember at first look, but you will have several weeks to become familiar with these organisms and their fossils. Starting with Lab 6 you will start working with the Fossil Identification Flowchart (Figure 0.1) that will help you. You will be able to use this flowchart in the lab final.

Lab 6: Life in the Precambrian and the Cambrian Explosion

Kingdom Monera (Archea and Bacteria) e.g. stromatolites

Kingdom Protista single celled Eukaryotes

Kingdom Animalia

Phylum Annelidia – worms (and worm burrows)

Phylum Porifera  sponges & Phylum (?) Archeocyatha (may or may not be part of Porifera)

Phylum Cnidaria – the jellies and sea anemones

Phylum Arthropoda – invertebrate animals with jointed legs and segmented bodies

Class Insecta – insects

Class Crustacea – lobsters, crabs, barnacles

Class Trilobitatrilobites

Phylum Hemichordata

                    Class Graptolithina graptolites

Lab 7: Fossils of the Paleozoic, and Paleoecology

Kingdom Animalia

Phylum Cnidaria – the corals




Phylum Bryozoa – bryozoans

Phylum Brachiopoda – brachiopods

Phylum Mollusca – molluscs

Class Bivalvia – bivalves (clams, oysters, scallops)

Class Gastropoda – snails, conchs

Lab 8: Fossils of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic

Kingdom Protista

Note: The Linnaean classifications for the microscopic organisms we will examine in Protista are too complex to be worth remembering. You will be expected to know the “working” names of these groups, along with what they are, what their shells were made of, and whether they were plants or animals.







Kingdom Animalia

Phylum Echinodermata – echinoderms

Class Echinoidea – sea urchins, sand dollars, heart urchins

Class Crinoidea – crinoids (“sea lilies”)

Class Blastoidea – blastoids (“sea buds”)

Class Asteroidea – starfish,

Class Ophiuroidea – brittle stars

Phylum Mollusca – molluscs

Class Cephalopoda – squids, nautiloids, ammonites, belemnites

Note: The sub-classes of Cephalopoda will be discussed using their “working names” (e.g., goniatites) rather than the exact classification names (e.g., Goniatitina). The “oid” names for sub-classes (nautiloids, ammonoids) and the “ites” names for orders (ceratites, goniatites, ammonites) are the ones you are expected to remember.

Sub-Class Nautiloideanautiloids

Sub-Class Ammonoideaammonoids

Order Goniatitina – goniatites

Order Ceratitina – ceratites

Order Ammonotitina – ammonites

Fossil Identification Flowchart

Fossil identification flowchart
Click here to see this diagram as a PDF file.


Laboratory Manual for Earth History Copyright © by kpanchuk. All Rights Reserved.

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