Scotland's rich geological heritage is to be protected with the launch of a pioneering national fossil code.
A fossil of a dinosaur footprint was discovered on a Skye beach
The code aims to stop irresponsible collectors causing damage as they use crowbars, sledgehammers and power saws in their search for relics.
Fossil sites across the country are under threat, according to the initiators of the code, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
It is hoped the project will also put an end to the illegal trade of fossils.
Particular concern has been expressed over damage to fossil sites on Skye, Caithness, Ayrshire and Lesmahagow in South Lanarkshire.
The draft Scottish Fossil Code was launched for public consultation in Edinburgh by the Minister for Environment Michael Russell.
The MSP said: "The fossil heritage of Scotland is incredibly important to Scotland's people as a scientific, educational and recreational resource.
"At this, the beginning of the public consultation on the draft Scottish Fossil Code, we are calling for all those who recognise its remarkable and irreplaceable value to take part and have their say in how fossils should be collected and cared for."
Scotland's rich geological heritage spans almost 3 billion years.
Fossil trees can been seen on Mull and in Glasgow, a dinosaur footprint and a fossilised oyster bed have been found on the Isle of Skye, and there is even a fossil fish in a pavement in Holyrood in Edinburgh.
The aim of the Scottish Fossil Code is to establish a nationally agreed framework of advice on best practice in the collection, identification, conservation and storage of fossils.
It also sets out guidelines on how to collect and look after fossils in a responsible way without damaging them or the areas where they are found.
The code was produced with the help of fossil collectors, landowners and palaeontological researchers.
SNH chairman Andrew Thin said: "Small-scale fossil collecting is a popular hobby and amateur collectors often uncover rare and very important finds which can add to our wider understanding and body of knowledge.
"It is vital for the development of geological science that young people especially are encouraged to take an interest in our world-class fossil heritage and that responsible collecting, as outlined in the draft code, continues."
Professor Colin Galbraith, the director for policy and advice at SNH, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland that the code was really about communication.
He said: "When you have collected fossils store them in a way that you can record where you got them, record what you think they are, and then we all have a record that we can share over years to come."
The Scottish Fossil Code is available for public consultation until 7 September 2007.