What Can Fossils & Skeletons Tell Us About Earth?

15 October, 2018

They’ve been around for hundreds of years and give scientists and researchers huge insights into the creation and evolution of animals – both past and present. Through studying fossils and old skeletons, we can study the lives of creatures that lived hundreds – even thousands! – of years ago.

How do you think we know so much about dinosaurs? They haven’t’ walked the earth since 65 million years ago, yet we know about their lives, their diets, and even how they might’ve looked.

Fossils are fascinating, and there’s a lot to learn about them, so we thought we’d give you the lowdown. It’s Fossils 101 with Deep Sea World! Keep reading…

What are fossils?

Fossils are the preserved remains or impressions of the remains of animals, humans, or plants. Fossils can be found in rock, wood, amber, and other hard substances. Fossils help paleontologists – people who study the history of life – to learn about and tell the story of the past.

How many different types of fossils are there?

There are four main types of fossils. Here’s how they are classified:

  1. Mold Fossils

These are the preserved remains of a prehistoric organism. Soft tissue usually disintegrates so the two main examples of body fossils are bones and teeth, which can survive for thousands of years. Animals with softer skeletons – like insects – are less likely to remain whole, unless they’re embalmed in hardened tree sap, also known as amber.

  1. Molds and Casts

Mold fossils are imprints of plant and animal remains. Casts are the fossils that form when those imprints become filled with sediment, forming the inverse shape of the imprint.

  1. Permineralisation and Petrification

If an organism’s remains are suspended in groundwater for an extended period of time, they may dissolve. If this happens, the original materials are replaced by minerals like calcite, iron and silica. This is called permineralisation and forms a fossil that is identical in shape to the original, but differs in composition.

When the organic matter is completely replaced by minerals, it turns to stone. This is called petrification, and the fossil is an exact replication of the original.

  1. Footprints and Trackways

These types of fossils allow us to look back at the behaviours and activities of ancient creatures. Footprints and trackways harden through mud and become known as trace fossils. It can show how a creature moved, whether it had a tail, and where it was going. Fascinating, right?!

Where are fossils found?

The majority of fossils are found within sedimentary rock. Even though sedimentary rock is easy to come by, fossils aren’t as common as you think. You can’t just ‘rock’ up and expect to find a fossil – most sedimentary rocks contain no recognisable fossils at all, apart from remains of plankton or pollen.

What’s a fossil fuel?

No, we don’t use dinosaur bones to run our cars or generate electricity. Fossil fuels are formed after millions of years of heat and pressure, which condenses decayed plants and animals to form oil, gas, and coal.

So, there you have it, your fossil questions answered! If you have any other questions about these prehistoric artefacts then make sure you ask us on Facebook or Twitter.  You can also get up close with some fascinating fossils at our brand new Bare Bones exhibition.

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