What are Fossils

The fossils are traces of organisms (animals and plants) that have been preserved very old and over the years through natural processes.

Remains that are more than 11,000 years old are considered fossils. In other words, in the geological era of the Holocene of the Cenozoic era, which began after the last ice age, about 11,500 years ago and extends to the present.

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

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 conserved almost entirely, for example, mammoths found on 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 the fossils is closely related to the climatic conditions of the planet and the morphological characteristics of the beings involved, which have preserved, in some way, the remains or remains for many years.

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

  • Marks : impressions left by the activities of living beings, for example, footprints.
  • Remains : include all types of rigid remains, for example, shells.
  • Molds : fossils molded by the region where the fossilization process takes place, of 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 rigid and soft parts of beings remain, for example those that fossilized in the 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.
  • Ichnofossils : are fossils that identify animal activity, whether through footprints, trails, 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 era.

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

Another example is the mammoth fossils , which were extinct more than 10,000 years ago and are still 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 occurred 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 several natural history museums around the world.


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

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

From the Latin, the term fossil ( fossilis ) is related to the verb “to dig” ( fodere ), which means “removed by excavation”. To share Submit Email

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