Performing the Lick Test

badlandsWhen you’re fossil hunting (because you fossil hunt all the time) do you know how to distinguish between a rock and a bone?

I hate to flaunt my knowledge here, but I’m about to tell you.

You lick it. Not really a lick, more like a tongue dab.  The bone absorbs the moisture from your tongue and will cling it. Rocks don’t stick to your tongue.

RIMG0796We took a trip to the Black Hills this summer and on our way back home we took a detour through the Badlands. There, we came across a park ranger giving a lecture on the fossils found in the area. He said we too could go fossil hunting and told us about the lick test. He held up specimens found by tourists just like us. He reminded us repeatedly, “find, photograph, report.” Don’t take them home! Find. Photograph. Report. Got it.

I was a little excited. I reminded myself to stay calm. I casually strolled downRIMG0808 the path. Just lookin’ for some fossils. No big deal.

I picked through rocks, scanned mounds. And then I found it! Something. I don’t know what it was. It couldn’t be a rock. Only one way to find out. Lick it!

As it turns out it was a rock. And the next one was too. I licked half a dozen rocks.

But, then I hit the mother load. This had to be a bone. It was rounded weird. If I had to guess, I’d say a Coccyx of some sort (I took Anatomy and Physiology). I performed the lick test. I got stickage! A fossil. I found a fossil. Find. Check.

I waved my husband over to document my find. He asked, “Did you lick it?”

RIMG0828“You know I did.” He snapped the picture. Photograph. Check.

Oh, it would have fit so nicely in my pocket. My fossil. My ten thousand year old Coccyx. My cute little Coccyx.

Don’t worry. I didn’t rob mankind of earth’s history. I resisted temptation. I put it back where I found it. It’s still there. I told the park ranger about my find. Report. Check.:(

Sigh. Some other tourist is probably licking it right now.

This is coprolite--fossilized poop. I did not lick this one.

This is coprolite–fossilized poop. I did not lick this one.



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