Belemnites were animals that lived in the sea. They are now extinct. Their name is derived from belemnon (Greek) meaning a dart. A fossil belemite is usually the guard, the back part of the shell, and this does look like a dart or bullet.
The belemnite is the state fossil of Delaware, USA.
|Belemnites were similar to squid (see left). But modern squid have arms with suckers and belemnite arms carried a series of small hooks for grabbing prey.|
Belemnites have always fascinated people with their strange shapes, and they have many names throughout the world.
In England, they were called thunderbolts, and they were supposed to fall from the sky during thunderstorms. They were also called bullets, Devil's Fingers or Saint Peter's Fingers.
In Scotland, they were known as botstones or bat stones. They were used to cure horses.
In Chinese, belemnites are known as Jien-shih (sword stones).
In some areas of Scandinavian, they are called vateljus (gnomes' candles).
In Germany, they are known as Alpschoß (nightmare shot), Fingerstein (finger stone), Gespensterkerze (ghostly candle) and Katzenkegel (cat's skittle).
Timescale: Belemnites disappeared during the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event, when the dinosaurs and ammonites became extinct.
A belemite with a rounded end. The hollow part on the right was originally filled with the rest of the belemnite. Size: 65mm
A belemite with a pointed end although the tip has been broken off. It is Jurassic, about 150 million years old. Size: 67mm
This is part of a belemnite. The second photo shows the broken off pointed end, with the growth rings of the belemnite. Size: 45mm
These belemnites were found at Whitby, Yorkshire. They come from Blue Lias clay. Sizes: 10mm-50mm
© Jo Edkins 2007 - Return to Fossils index