What are fossils

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You fossils are traces of very old organisms (animals and plants) that have been preserved as the years pass by through natural processes.

The remains that are more than 11 thousand years old are considered fossils. In other words, in the geological epoch of the Holocene of the Cenozoic era, which began after the last ice age, around 11,500 years ago, and which extends to the present.

what are fossils
dinosaur fossil

The study of fossils was deepened in the mid-18th century, although the Greek philosopher Xenophanes he already used fossils in his analyses.

The oldest fossils found on planet Earth are dated to approximately 3.8 billion years.

Formation of Fossils

Fossils can be bones, shells, teeth, footprints and are usually found in very old stones and rocks.

There are fossils that are preserved almost entirely, for example, mammoths found in ice, or insects in amber (vegetable resin).

Note that the hard parts of beings are more likely to fossilize than the soft parts.

The formation of fossils is closely related to the planet's climatic conditions and characteristics. morphological characteristics of the beings involved, who somehow preserved the remains or traces for many years old.

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To find out how long the fossil was alive on planet Earth, scientists measure the amount of chemical compounds present, for example, carbon, lead and uranium.

This modern method of dating fossils is called "radioactivity" and determines how many millions or billions of years the organism has been present.

See below the main fossilization processes, which led to the formation of fossils.

Fossilization Processes

Fossilization represents the process of conservation of fossils, which can occur in different ways. Below are the main fossilization processes:

  • brands: impressions left by activities of living beings, for example, footprints.
  • Remains: include all kinds of hard traces, eg shells.
  • molds: fossils shaped by the region where the fossilization process takes place, from which the rigid parts of beings remain, for example, the bones.
  • Mineralization: occurs through the transformation of organic matter into ores, for example, silica.
  • Mummification: also called “conservation”, it is a process in which the hard and soft parts of beings remain, for example those that fossilized in ice.

Types of Fossils

According to the study of fossils, there are two types:

  • Somatofossil: are the fossils of organisms from the past (somatic remains), for example, bones, carapaces, leaves, trunks, among others.
  • Ichnofossil: are fossils that identify animal activity, whether through footprints, tracks, tunnels, excrement, bite marks, among others.

The Importance of Fossils

It is through studies on fossils that we can better understand the history of the planet in remote times, identified by the traces that marked a certain period.

A notorious example is found dinosaur fossils, since if they were not studied we would never know that these gigantic reptiles lived on the planet long before the human race inhabited it.

Another example is the fossils of mammoths, which were extinct over 10,000 years ago and are still being studied by researchers today.

Thus, fossils are the most concrete evidence of the existence of life on the planet, being an important study tool among biologists, archaeologists, paleontologists and geologists. They reveal the transformations that have taken place in living beings and on the planet itself for years.

For this and other reasons, the conservation of fossils reveals great historical importance for the study of the evolution of life.

The work of finding the fossils is carried out by the paleontologist, carried out by excavating a site and collecting the material.

Currently, it is possible to find many fossils in various natural history museums around the world.


Paleontology is the name of the science that studies fossils and the paleontologist is the professional in the area.

The so-called Paleozoology is a branch of Paleontology that studies animal fossils.

From Latin, the term fossil (fossilis) is related to the verb “dig” (fuck), which means “excavated”.

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