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Fossils: Clues to the Past


Many animals have been extinct for thousands, or even millions, of years. How do we know where they lived, how they lived or even how they looked? Scientists study fossils for the answers.

By definition, fossils are the remains, impressions or traces of an organism of past geologic ages that have been preserved in the Earth’s crust. Fossils are an important record of the Earth’s history. However, not all plants and animals became fossils. Many died, decomposed or were eaten by another animal without leaving any trace of their existence.

Fossils have also taught us about changes in the land. Discoveries have been made suggesting that some continents once may have been joined, the climate of Antarctica may have been warm and mountains once may have been at the bottom of the ocean!

Because fossils have been unearthed around the world, there is a good chance some have been found not far from where you live.

Did You Know?

  • The word fossil comes from the Latin word fossilis which means dug up.
  • Paleontologists are scientists that study fossils for a living.
  • The oldest fossils ever discovered are microscopic traces of bacteria that lived in the ocean 3 ½ billion years ago.
  • Fossils prove that dinosaurs lived 180 to 65 million years ago!
  • Whole bugs have been discovered in amber, a hardened sticky tree sap which is clear like glass. 

Check These Out!


Digging for Dinosaurs
Eccentric Professor Fossilworth teaches what kinds of dinosaurs lived and what they looked like, what animals in our world today are direct descendants of the dinosaur, and how fossils give today's paleontologists a look at the earth millions of years ago.
Bill Nye the Science Guy
"Discover the relationship between dinosaurs and birds, and find out that rhinoceroses once lived in Nebraska. Bill also tracks down dinosaur footprints with paleontologist Grace Irby and travels to the La Brea Tar Pits to see what's underneath all that tar"--Container.
The Great Whale of Kansas
Jennings, Richard W.
While digging a hole in his back yard, an eleven-year-old Kansas boy finds the fossilized remains of a gigantic prehistoric animal, a discovery that brings both fame and controversy.
The Berenstain Bears and the G-rex Bones
Berenstain, Stan
Doctor Zoltan Bearish and his gang of swindlers try to pass off fake dinosaur bones in order to embarrass Professor Actual Factual and the Bearsonian Institution.
Jurassic Poop
Berkowitz, Jacob
Describes what coprolites are and where they are often found, and explains the different ways they may have become fossilized and why they are important to paleontologists.
Fantastic Fossils
Petersen, Christine

Websites

To learn more, check these websites: 

Fossils

Virtual Dig