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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. 

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