Facts about Ammonites, an extinct prehistoric animal

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Other Prehistoric Animals   >   Ammonites



Ammonite Fossil
Click here for more Ammonite Pictures

Scientific Classification
  Kingdom Animalia
  Phylum Mollusca
  Class Cephalopoda
  Subclass Ammonoidea
Ammonites are an extinct group of cephalopod molluscs that lived in marine environments. They first appeared in the Late Silurian or Early Devonian (about 400 million years ago), and went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period (about 65 million years ago), during the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction. Although they outwardly physically resemble the modern Nautilus, Ammonites are actually believed to be more closely related to cuttlefish, octopi, and squid.

Ammonite fossils are often (but not always) a distinctive flattened spiral coil with visible ribs, although there are species with unusual coil shapes, partially coiled shells, and even uncoiled shells. Most Ammonites are quite small, perhaps 9 inches (23 centimeters) or less in diameter - there are however some larger types, for example Parapuzosia seppenradensis which is found in Cretaceous rocks from Germany is sometimes upto 6½ feet (2 meters) in diameter,

Fossilized ammonites preserved in rock:
Fossilized ammonites preserved in rock

Ammonite fossils have been known since ancient times:
  • The Roman author, Pliny the Elder (23 CE to 79 CE) called the fossils, the "horns of Ammon", because he thought that they resembled the ram's horns which the Egyptian god Ammon was depicted with.

  • In medieval times, Ammonites were often thought to be petrified snakes, and were often called "snake stones" or "serpent stones". The supposed petrification was usually ascribed to the actions of saints such as Saint Patrick (who was said to have driven the snakes out of Ireland).

  • In India, Ammonites were sometimes regarded as symbols of the god Vishnu, and were kept in temples.
Today, modern scientists often use Ammonites and Amminoids as "index fossils" (fossils which are used to help date the rocks that they are found in), particularly for Mesozoic Era rocks. This is possible because these fossils are relatively abundant in rocks, are widely distributed, and because different species evolved and went extinct in rapid succession - thus the presence of a particular species is indicative of rocks being formed in a particular time period.

Ammonites Timeline:

Ammonites were cephalopod molluscs that lived in the seas between 400 and 65 million years ago

Ammonites were cephalopod molluscs that lived in the seas between 400 and 65 million years ago

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