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Fossil dating wiki

A fossil is any remains or trace of an ancient organism.Fossils include body fossils, left behind when the soft parts have decayed away, as well as trace fossils, such as burrows, tracks, or fossilized waste (feces) (Figure 11.4).As the years go by, the bones are scattered and fragmented into small pieces, eventually turning into dust and returning their nutrients to the soil.It would be rare for any of the antelope’s remains to actually be preserved as a fossil.Throughout human history, people have discovered fossils and wondered about the creatures that lived long ago.In ancient times, fossils inspired legends of monsters and other strange creatures.

The fossil record is our best clue to the history of life on Earth, and an important indicator of past climates and geological conditions as well.Because mammal teeth are much more resistant than other bones, a large portion of the mammal fossil record consists of teeth.This means the fossil record will show many organisms that had shells, bones or other hard parts and will almost always miss the many soft-bodied organisms that lived at the same time.On the ocean floor, a similar process occurs when clams, oysters, and other shellfish die.The soft parts quickly decay, and the shells are scattered over the sea floor.Similarly, legends of the Cyclops may be based on fossilized elephant skulls found in Crete and other Mediterranean islands. Many of the real creatures whose bones became fossilized were no less marvelous than the mythical creatures they inspired (Figure 11.3).The giant pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus had a wingspan of up to 12 meters (39 feet).Some of the best-preserved skeletons of land animals are found in the La Brea Tar Pits of Los Angeles, California.Although the animals trapped in the pits probably suffered a slow, miserable death, their bones were preserved perfectly by the sticky tar.For animals that lack hard shells or bones, fossilization is even more rare.As a result, the fossil record contains many animals with shells, bones, or other hard parts, and few softbodied organisms.

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