Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

3.3 Forms of Life


3.3: The forms of life

The AFMS publishes the AFMS Fossil List, which represents the approved reference list of classifications and common names of fossils used in judging competitive exhibits of fossil collections. This highly detailed list serves as an invaluable reference tool. You can receive information about obtaining a copy by contacting the AFMS central office at the following email address: central_office@amfed.org. Or you can download a copy yourself from http://www.amfed.org/rules/rules.htm. Once in the site, click on AFMS Approved Reference List of Classifications and Common Names for Fossils, and then make sure you have a good supply of paper in your printer because the document is over 20 pages long.

In addition to the AFMS Fossil List, you‘ll find classifications provided in the many fossil guidebooks listed above on the first back-up page for the Fossils badge. And you might check out the website Yup…Rocks, which features a photo gallery of fossils from the major phyla.

How much detailed knowledge kids should have of the different forms of life will vary with the ages of the kids with whom you‘re working. For younger kids, it‘s enough that they learn to use common names and to distinguish among, say, clams, starfishes, sponges, etc. The older the kids, the more detail they should be expected to learn, moving from common names to scientific nomenclature, using Bivalvia (previously called Pelecypoda), Asteroidea, Porifera, and so on.

Here is a general listing of the major fossil taxa most often included in the collections of amateur fossil hunters.

Representative Phyla of the Animal Kingdom


Porifera (sponges)

Representative classes: Calcarea, Demospongia, Hexactinellida

Cnidaria (corals, jellyfish, sea pens, sea anemone)

Representative classes: Protomedusae (jellyfish), Hydrozoa, Anthozoa (corals)

Bryozoa (bryozoans, or "moss animals")

Representative classes: Stenolaemata, Gymnolaemata

Brachiopoda (brachiopods)

Representative classes: Inarticulata, Articulata

Mollusca (mollusks)

Representative classes: Gastropoda (snails), Bivalvia or Pelecypoda (clams, oysters, scallops), Cephalopoda (cephalopods: ammonites, nautiloids, squid, octopi), Scaphopoda (scaphopods)

Annelida (worms)

Representative classes: Polychaeta (marine worms), Oligochaeta (earthworms)

Arthropoda (arthropods)

Representative classes: Trilobita (trilobites), Ostracoda (ostracods), Insecta (insects), Crustacea (crabs, shrimps, lobsters), Cirripedia (barnacles)

Echinodermata (echinoderms)

Representative classes: Blastoidea, Crinoidea, Asteroidea (starfish), Ophiuroidea (brittle stars), Echinoidea (sea urchins, sand dollars), Holothuroidea (sea cucumbers)


Chordata (vertebrates)

Representative Classes:

Chondrichthyes (cartilagenous fishes: sharks, skates, rays, guitarfish)

Osteichthyes (bony fishes)

Teleosteri (ray-finned fishes)

Amphibia (amphibians)

Reptilia (reptiles: lizards, turtles, crocodiles, dinosaurs, flying reptiles, marine


Aves (birds)

Mammalia (mammals)

Representative Classes and Orders of the Plant Kingdom

Sphenopsida (horsetails)

Filicopsida (ferns, tree ferns)

Pteridospermales (seed ferns)

Cycadales (cycads)

Glossopteridales (glossoperid)

Ginkgoales (ginkgoes)

Cordaitales (cordaites)

Coniferales (conifers: pines, spruce, etc.)

Magnoliopsida (dicotyledon angiosperms, or flowering plants)

Liliosda (monocotyledon angiosperms, or flowering plants)