Fossils, memories of the past
When an animal or plant stops living, there is usually no trace of it left, either by another animal eating it or by rotting in the soil or water. But sometimes the animal or plant is buried in sand or mud before being destroyed. When that happens and the conditions are right, the shape of the animal or plant is preserved as a fossil.
Fossils of animals or plants are found in sedimentary rocks. The fossil is literally turned into rock because it has been mineralized or petrified. A fossil can also be a footprint or impression of a being from a bygone age.
Some organisms fossilize well, others do not. The most common fossils correspond to the hard parts of animals such as shells, teeth and bones. However, fossilized feathers and skins have also been found.
The most recognized fossils by all are those of the prehistoric dinosaurs. The bones and fossilized footprints of these huge ancient reptiles can be seen in many museums around the world.
Did you know . . . ?
✔ The study of fossils by geologists and biologists is known as paleontology.
✔ Wes Linster, at the age of 14, discovered the fossilized skeleton of a bird-shaped dinosaur. Due to its small size it was called Bambiraptor.
✔ Insects such as mites and flies have also been found completely preserved in amber. Amber is the fossilized resin of trees.