ology logo
card
028

Fossilization

OLogy Series
paleontology
card
028

Fossilization

OLogy Series
paleontology

The only way to learn about life that went extinct thousands, millions, and billions of years ago is to study the fossils they left behind in rocks. Fossils are the key to understanding what organisms lived on Earth long before modern humans appeared. Fossils are like windows to the past.

Mary Anning, Fossil Fanatic
While Mary Anning was growing up in England in the 1800s, her father taught her how to collect fossils. The cliffs near her home were loaded with spectacular specimens. When her father died, Mary and her mother began a fossil collecting business. At about age 11, Mary and her brother found the first complete Ichthyosaurus fossil. She also discovered a Plesiosaurus, Pteradactylus, and the fossil fish called Squaloraja. When Mary found a good fossil, she often left her dog behind to mark the spot while she fetched others to help her dig it out. As an adult, Mary was finally recognized as a great fossil collector by the scientific community of London.

What is this?

butterscotch candy

amber

spider Jell-O

Are you right?

Correct!

Amber is fossilized tree sap. Sometimes animals like insects or lizards get stuck in this sticky liquid. Their remains are found in the fossilized sap.

This is a picture of a coprolite, which is:

a Triassic sea creature

a yummy dessert

fossilized poop

Are you right?

Correct!

Coprolites are fossilized poop. By studying them, we can learn about an animal's habitat and diet when it was alive.

Most fossils are found in metamorphic rock.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

The best place to find fossils is sedimentary rock. Fossils form when living things become covered with layers of sediment.

Definitionthe process when organic material (bones, shells, leaves) is turned into stone
Name Origin: from the Latin word fossilis, which translates into "something dug up"
Researcher: German physician Georgius Agricola first used the term "fossil" in his book, The Nature of Fossils, published in 1546
Significance: Fossils are the key to understanding life in the past.

Image credits: courtesy of USGS.