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LET'S EXPLORE Prehistoric life

What do fossils tell us?

Fossil dinosaur skull exposed at an excavation siteFossil dinosaur skull exposed at an excavation sitePrehistoric creatures that had hard parts such as bones, teeth and shells—including humans—left behind fossils. Fossils are the remains of living things preserved in stone. From studying fossils, scientists can find out a lot about life in the past, such as what living things looked like and what they ate. For dinosaurs, they look for fossils in rocks that were formed during the Age of Dinosaurs. For mammals, they look in more recent rock layers. Besides bones, teeth or shells, fossil-hunters also look for feather impressions, footprints, eggs—even fossilized poo!

A fossil dragonflyA fossil dragonfly

How fossils form, in four stagesHow fossils form, in four stages

How fossils form

Not every prehistoric creature turns into a fossil. But if an animal becomes buried in sediments (sand or mud) under water soon after it dies, then fossilization is more likely to take place. The animal’s soft parts rot away quite quickly. Minerals in the water start to fill the tiny spaces inside the animals’ hard parts, such as bone, teeth or shell.

Over millions of years, both the animal remains and the sediments it was buried in turn to stone. The detail of the animal's bones, teeth or shell is preserved as a fossil. One day, a fossil-hunter may discover it.

Excavation site

In 2013, a nine-year-old English girl, Daisy Morris, had a pterosaur named after her. She found its remains on a beach on the Isle of Wight in 2009. Vectidraco daisymorrisae means "Dragon from the Isle of Wight".

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