What are fossils?

And how did dinosaurs go from living creatures to rocks?

If you were anything like me as a kid, than dinosaurs were your favorite topic

Thinking of dinosaurs eventually leads to the topic of their remains. Fossils. How exactly did these huge and magnificent creatures turn into rocks?

So what exactly are fossils?

Millions of years ago, the entire world was filled with huge lumbering creatures we know as dinosaurs. There were many different species of dinosaur including some of the more well-known such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex or the Triceratops. Eventually the dinosaurs became extinct due to what is known as the K-T event which occurred 65 million years ago. All that remained of these leviathan species were what are as fossils. Fossils are the physical remains or impressions that were left behind by plants or animals after they died. So when a dinosaur or a plant died millions of years ago, there was a chance that their remains would be fossilized.

How were they formed?

There are a variety of ways that fossils were formed. The most common and well-know method is what is called Carbonization. In this process of fossilization plant leaves, soft body parts of fish and reptiles decompose. This leaves behind only the carbon which creates an impression in the rock outlining the fossil. This method can provide paleontologists with very detailed fossils. This is how we are able to reconstruct such amazing models in our natural history museums. Despite what you may think though, fossils aren't always formed. There are certain conditions that must be met for a fossil to form. For instance, most fossils are formed when the remains are preserved in muddy or sandy environments where they are packed in tightly. This starts the process of fossilization which can take thousands and thousands of years to complete.

Where can fossils be found?

Fossils can be found just about anywhere on Earth. You could visit a local creek or dried river bed and it wouldn't be too surprising for a fossil to be there. I've even found a shell fossil while swimming along the banks of the Tennessee River! Some of the more common places to find a fossil would be the beach or in quarries. But people have found some fossils in very weird places. One such example would be during construction. Workers are just doing their work when out of nowhere, they find a huge fossil. So don't feel that you need to travel far away to search for fossils.

Try it Out!

Want to learn more about fossils?

  • Make your own fossils: Want to try your hand at making your very own fossils? Well you are in luck! Instead of waiting millions of years, you can follow the following link which contains a great way to create a little fossil. Here is the Link
  • Visit a local History Museum: A great place to learn more about fossils would be your local museum of natural history. Museums will have many different types of fossils that would be very cool to look at. You would also have a great opportunity to learn even more about how dinosaurs lived and how their world was millions of years ago. A good example of a local museum which holds dinosaur exhibits would be the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Georgia. Here is their website!
  • Go search outside: If you are so excited that you can sit still, why not go outside and search for a real life specimen of a fossil? As I stated earlier, I found a real fossil not far from home while swimming. So go search the local beach or a riverbed near you. You may find a shell fossil or maybe even a larger specimen. This is also a good way to get some exercise while having fun!