State Law - Fossils


basilosaurus cetoides

Image credits: Gidley (1913) and Dr. Philip Gingerich for posting the image on his whale research site. Click image to enlarge.

Basilosaurus cetoides, the Alabama State Fossil

 Basilosaurus cetoides is an extinct whale from the Eocene period. Basilosaur means King of Lizards, but after staff at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences studied the skeleton, they realized this was not a lizard, but a meat eating member of the whale family, so it was renamed zeuglodon (Genus Basilosaurus). Fossils from this whale are abundant in Alabama and Louisana. Several zeuglodon skeletons have been found here, including one found in south Alabama in 1982, which is currently on display at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama. An earlier find was sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. According to the Alabama State Archives, these are the two most complete Basilosaurus cetoides skeletons ever found. Dr. Philip Gingerich has done extensive research on the origin and early evolution of whales (Cetacea). His website provides a great overview of current research, pictures from his field work in Egypt, and a listing of publications discussing fossil whales.

Code of Alabama

Code of Alabama -
Title 1 - General Provisions
Chapter 2 - State Symbols and Honors

Section 1-2-20
State fossil.
The Alabama Legislature does hereby designate as the official State of Alabama fossil the "Species Basilosaurus Cetoides."

No fossil "Species Basilosaurus Cetoides" shall be removed from the State of Alabama, in whole or in part, except by prior written approval of the Governor. (Acts 1984, No. 84-66, p. 89.)

 The BPS Philosophy

The above is the only law regulating fossil collecting in Alabama. Therefore, it is up to the amateur paleontological community to protect the abundant fossil resources in Alabama, and help ensure scientifically important specimens are available for research, rather than sitting in a store with a high price tag, potentially out of reach of research museums.

The Birmingham Paleontological Society discourages collectors who are seeking a way to profit from this hobby - our mission is to assist museums, professional paleontologists, and those educational organizations who teach the science of paleontology, or expose students to this very interesting potential career. We also encourage members to create their own private collections, and make them available to researchers as needed.