ATHENS, Ohio, March 23 (UPI) -- Researchers have designed a mobile app to help fossil hunters identify finds.
Students from Ohio University teamed up with researchers at San Jose State University and University of Kansas to digitize information on some 450,000 museum specimens. The result is an app called the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life.
By plotting the precise latitude-longitude values for discovered fossils, researchers have created a digital map that can help identify which fossils are most likely to be found where.
Currently, the app's database focuses on ancient species from three time periods: the Ordovician, 485 to 444 million years ago; the Pennsylvanian, 323 to 299 million years ago; and the Neogene, 23 to 2.6 million years old.
Ordovician fossils tend to be found most often in the Ohio Valley. Pennsylvanian fossils are most common in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma. and Texas. Florida and the southeastern United States are richest in Neogene fossils.
The application and corresponding website work like a digital field guide -- the kinds used by birders and other naturalists to identify species. And because it doesn't require an Internet connection, the information is available even at remote dig sites.
Currently, the app features digitized details on some 800 ancient species, but researchers say they will continue to add 15 to 20 new species to the database each month.
The project is funded by the National Science Foundation. The app is currently available for free download from the iTunes store.