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10.1: How Fossilization Creates Fossils

Difficulty Level: Basic Created by: CK-12
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How do you find fossils?

In lots of places you can go on a field trip to find fossils. The fossils are found in rock layers. You can break apart the rock layers and find the fossils.

What Are Fossils?

Fossils are preserved remains or traces of organisms that lived in the past. Most preserved remains are hard parts, such as teeth, bones, or shells. Hard parts are less likely to be destroyed before they can become fossils. Even so, a very tiny percentage of living things become fossils. These types of fossils are called body fossils. Examples of body fossils are pictured in Figures below, below, and below.

The preserved remains of an ammonite, fossilized and embedded in rock.

The preserved remains of an entire Archaeopteryx, a type of dinosaur.

A group of preserved trilobites, a variety of ancient marine arthropods.

Preserved traces can include footprints, burrows, or even wastes. Examples of these types of fossils, called trace fossils are also shown in Figures below and below.

The preserved trace of a dinosaur footprint, originally in mud.

A preserved trace: a spiraling burrow made by a prehistoric animal.


  • body fossil: The remains of an ancient organism. Examples include shells, bones, teeth, and leaves.
  • trace fossil: Evidence of the activity of an ancient organism; e.g. tracks, tubes, and bite marks.


  • Fossils are the remains or traces of living organisms.
  • Body fossils are usually hard parts, such as bones, teeth, and shells.
  • Trace fossils are the traces of organisms, not parts of them. Trace fossils include footprints, feces, and burrows.


Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

How Fossils are Formed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVwPLWOo9TE (2:39)

  1. What do paleontologists study?
  2. At least how old are most fossils?
  3. What are trace fossils?
  4. What can be learned from trace fossils?
  5. What are mold fossils?
  6. What are resin fossils?
  7. How are resin fossils formed?
  8. What are body fossils?
  9. How are body fossils formed?


  1. Give three examples of body fossils.
  2. Give three examples of trace fossils.
  3. Why are most fossils of hard-bodied organisms?


body fossil

body fossil

Remains of an ancient organism; examples include shells, bones, teeth, and leaves.
trace fossil

trace fossil

Evidence of the activity of an ancient organism; e.g. tracks, tubes, and bite marks.

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Jan 04, 2013
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