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Trace Fossil Definition

A trace fossil is an impression or other preserved sign of ancient organism activity, not its remains. For example, feeding, scratching, burrowing, walking, or resting.

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The Fossil Record

Fun Facts

  • Trace fossils include footprints, burrows, and even fossilized poop!
  • Trace fossils can be molds and casts.
  • Trace fossils tell about an organism's activity while alive.

Why Do We Need To Know About Trace Fossil

Learning about trace fossils helps us know more about what life and environments were like a long time ago. Trace fossils, like footprints or holes made by animals, show us how these ancient creatures lived and behaved.

This knowledge is important for jobs in paleontology, where scientists study these fossils to learn about how life on Earth has changed over time. It also helps people who work in museums and in teaching others about Earth’s history. By studying trace fossils, we get important information that helps us share the story of life on Earth with others.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are fossils discovered?
Earth processes like erosion and earthquakes can move sediment from one location to another, often uncovering and exposing fossils. Scientists also concentrate their search efforts in areas that are known to have lots of fossils, like Utah.
How do trace fossils provide evidence of past life?
Trace fossils provide information about how an organism lived, including but not limited to how it moved, what it ate, and where it lived.
How do layers of rock provide information in the fossil record?
Over time, sediment forms layers beneath the Earth’s surface. The deeper fossils are found in the Earth’s crust, the older they are. The closer to the surface fossils are found, the younger they are.
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