Fossils tell us about the lives of ancient organisms that existed thousands of years before humans. They vary in size and form, and provide an insight into our origin and our world.
Read through these interesting fossil facts and learn about the biggest and oldest fossils ever found.
Fact 1: Fossils aren’t necessarily the remains of animals or humans, such as teeth and bones; they also include plant, fungi and bacteria remains that have been replaced by rock material. Foot prints, impressions of organisms preserved in rock that come from past geological ages, are also fossils.
Fact 2: The word fossil comes from the Latin word fossilis, which translates to „dug up“. Fossils are generally excavated from sedimentary rock layers.
Fact 3: A fossilized bone is no longer an actual bone! It has the same shape as a bone, but has chemically becomes a rock. Over time bone decays as water filled with minerals seeps into it and replaces the bones chemicals with rock-like minerals.
Fact 4: Burrows or foot prints are known as trace fossils. These include dinosaur footprints, worm trails and even trails of Stone Age people and can tell us about the eating habits and the living style of any given organism.
Fact 5: Fossils are formed in several ways; unaltered preservation (insects trapped in a hardened form), permineralization (minerals seeping into bones and turning them to a rock-like fossil), carbonization (only carbon remains, while hydrogen, oxygen and other elements are removed) and authigenic preservation (impressions left behind by organisms/an external mold).
Fact 6: Paleontology is the study of the history of life on Earth based on fossils.
Fact 7: Apart from providing information on the life and death of a species, fossils can give us an insight into their social behavior and the evolutionary history of an organism.
Fact 8: There are various types of fossils. For example, microfossils are small remains of fungi, animals, bacteria and plants. Microfossils, unlike other fossils, aren’t grouped according to similar specifications, but are connected by their small size.
Fact 9: The oldest microfossils ever found are bacteria discovered in 3.4 billion year old sandstone in Western Australia. According to scientists at the time of their existence Earth had no oxygen, which has lent hope to the theory that life once existed on Mars.
Fact 10: Last year, paleontologists discovered the fossilized bones of a dinosaur believed to be the largest animal to ever walk the Earth. The discovery was made in Argentina and based on the findings, this dinosaur was 40 m (130ft) long and 20m (65ft) tall, weighing in at 77 tones. This is heavier than 14 African elephants! The bones are believed to be 70 million years old.
Fact 11: Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, are actually sourced from the organic remains of prehistoric organisms. For example, oil and gas come from organic remains of marine organisms which are preserved in sea-floor sediments, whilst coal is formed from remains of land vegetation.
Fact 12: The word dinosaur comes from the ancient Greek words deinos, meaning „fearfully great“, and sauros, a lizard, and was coined by Richard Owen in 1842. Although Owen knew dinosaurs weren’t lizards, he thought the slimy creatures walking the earth today may have derived from these large prehistoric animals.
Fact 13: Earlier this year, scientists based in Ethiopia suggested that they have found the earliest known fossil on the ancestral line that led to humans; one part of a lower jaw with several teeth that is around 2.8 million years old. Anthropologists believe that this fossil fills an important gap in the record of human evolution.