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What is a Fossils? | Types, Definition, Structure, Function & Facts

What is a Fossil?

Fossils are the preserved remains or imprints of a living organism such as a plant, animal, or insect. Some fossils are very old. Studying fossils helps scientists learn more about the history of life on Earth.

How do Fossils form?

There are a number of ways that fossils may form as provided below:

Amber – Whole-body insect fossils can be found preserved in a hard resin called amber. These fossils can be preserved in amber for up to millions of years.

Carbonization – Carbonization occurs when all the elements of an organism are dissolved except carbon. The carbon left behind shows an outline of the organism.

Casts and molds – Fossil molds or molds are the imprint of a living organism. They are created when an organism dissolves into the Earth and leaves an empty mold. The mold is then filled with minerals leaving what looks like a statue of the creature.

Freezing – Some fossils are stored in ice. As long as the ice doesn’t melt, fossils can be preserved for thousands of years. Large fossils such as woolly mammoths have been found in Arctic glaciers.

Mummification – In very dry areas, fossils can form through mummification. This is when dead organisms quickly dry out. Since there is little moisture, the remains of organisms can be preserved for a long time by leaving fossils.

Permineralization – Permineralization occurs when minerals form an array of organisms. The fossils thus formed can be very detailed. Common minerals include silicates, carbonates, and pyrite.

Types of Fossils

There are two main types of fossils: Body and Trace Fossils.

Body fossils – A body fossil is a fossil where part of an actual organism’s body remains in the fossil. It can be a tooth or a piece of bone.

Trace fossils – Trace fossils are fossils with no actual part of the original organism, but “trace” of the organism preserved in rocks and minerals. There are many types of trace fossils, including molds, animal tracks, embryos, and footprints.

Where are Fossils Found?

Fossils are found all over the world. Most fossils are found in sedimentary rocks such as shale, limestone and sandstone.

Collecting Fossils

Many people like to collect fossils as a hobby. If you want to learn more, you can join the fossil club. The Fossil Club can tell you the best place to find fossils near you. Clubs can also be helpful in teaching you how to properly preserve and extract a fossil without damaging it.

Interesting Facts about Fossils

The word “fossil” comes from the Latin “fossilis” which means “obtained by digging”.

When a geological process produces a pattern that looks like a fossil, but isn’t really, it’s called a pseudofossil. Paleontologists are scientists who study prehistoric life by studying fossils.

The dinosaur skeleton was reconstructed using fossil bones found in the soil.

Scientists can use dinosaur footprints to determine how fast dinosaurs ran, how many legs they had, and whether dinosaurs moved in groups.

Rock fossils known as gastroliths have been discovered. These rocks were swallowed by the dinosaurs to help them digest food.

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