Chapter contents:

Nature of the fossil record– 1. Body fossils and also trace fossils ←– 2. The process of fossilization– 3. Types of fossil preservation– 4. Completeness of the fossil record

Body fossils

Body fossils are the stays of the body parts of prehistoric animals, plants, and also other life creates. They tell us somepoint about the appearance of ancient life develops.

You are watching: Fossils such as footprints burrows and droppings

Body fossil instance 1

A wevery one of huge dinosaur bones (permineralized remains) from the Jurassic period on screen at Dinosaur National Monument, Coloracarry out. The fossil bones of huge vertebrates choose dinosaurs are just very hardly ever found linked, or articulated. Normally, they are not uncovered attached to each other (i.e., they are disarticulated), as is the instance below. This calls for the researchers that research the bones to make interpretations about just how the bones could have fit together when the animal was alive. As brand-new clinical discoveries are made, reconstructions of individual dinosaur species regularly change, requiring museums to rebuild their specimens on display screen and also artists to create new illustrations.


Jurassic dinosaur bones maintained on a normally uplifted, practically vertical wall at Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado. Photograph by Jonathan R. Hendricks.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAchoose 4.0 Internationwide License.

Body fossil example 2

A fossilized leaf from the Eocene-aged Eco-friendly River Formation (maintained as a carbonization). Due to the fact that of the excellent high quality of preservation, little creativity is required to rebuild the appearance of the once-living leaf. This speciguys is on display screen at the Utah Field House of Natural History in Vernal, Utah.


A carbonized fossil plant leaf (likely from a sycamore or airplane tree) from the Eocene Green River Formation (on display screen at the Utah Field House of Natural History, Vernal, Utah). Picture by Jonathan R. Hendricks.  This job-related is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAchoose 4.0 International License.

Body fossil example 3:

An assemblage of well-maintained fossil Turritella snail shells from the Miocene-aged Gatun Formation of Panama, showing untransformed preservation, despite being over 10 million years old.


Assemblage of fossil Turritella snail shells from the Miocene Gatun Formation of Panama. Photograph by Jonathan R. Hendricks.  This work-related is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Internationwide License.

Trace fossils

Trace fossils (periodically additionally dubbed ichnofossils) carry out proof about the movements and/or tasks of ancient organisms, however not necessarily about their appearance.There are 3 significant types:

Movement traces.Predation traces.Digestive traces.
1. Movement traces

As their name implies, movement trace fossils tell us about how prehistoric animals relocated within their habitats. It is simple to understand why such fossils are so beneficial for expertise ancient life.

Consider the footprints you can leave behind as you walk on a sandy beach or with the scurrently. While they don’t reveal much around your appearance (besides the general dimension and also form of the bottom of your foot or shoe), they reveal the direction you were moving, whether you were traveling alone or in a team, and also administer ideas about whether you were walking (footprints close together) or running (footprints better apart).

Dinosaur footprints carry out the best examples of activity trace fossils and carry out paleontologists via the exact same kinds of clues that human footprints execute.


Jurassic-aged dinosaur footprints on screen in Snee Hall on the Cornell University campus. These were built up from Connecticut or Massachusetts. Photograph by Jonathan R. Hendricks.  This occupational is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAprefer 4.0 International License.

Discoveries of dinosaur footprints and trackways–left behind in soft sediment that later on turned to rock–are not altogether rare and also new discoveries are made routinely. For instance, a substantial footprint left behind by a titanosaur was newly found in the Gobi Desert.

Not all movement trace fossils are footprints, but. Other types of motion traces incorporate the trails and also burrows left behind by pets in the sediment prior to it hardened. Sediments that were heavily combined by burrowing organisms prior to turning to rock are shelp to be bioturbated. Such bioturbated rocks normally lack finely preserved layers; the absence of such layers is periodically an indication for geologists that the sediments were well oxygenated, thus enabling pets to crawl via them.

The speciguys presented below is a widespread type of motion trace fossil called Zoophycos. The pet (most likely a worm) that made the trace more than likely stayed in a burrow near the position indicated by the arrowhead. The clockwise swirling lines might show the sweeping movements of a feeding framework that gathered food from the sediment.


A specimen of the movement trace fossil Zoophycos from the collections of the Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, New York. Photograph by Jonathan R. Hendricks.  This job-related is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAfavor 4.0 International License.

2. Feeding traces

Feeding map fossils are normally predatory in nature. They are essential bereason they carry out a document of prehistoric eco-friendly interactions in between species, and indicate how these interactions may have changed over time.

Some contemporary snails, especially naticids and muricids, assault their prey (normally bivalves or various other snails) by first drilling holes right into their shells. Paleontologists typically uncover similar holes in fossil shells, enabling them to assume that the same kinds of predators made the holes in the past. This assumption is bolstered by the truth that the shells of the predators themselves are often discovered in the exact same deposits.

Left: a fossil specimen of the bivalve Eucrassatella speciosa (PRI 70053) mirroring a drill hole made by a predatory snail. Right: a fossil naticid snail, Naticarius plicatella (PRI 70044). This species, or a very closely associated species, most likely made the drill hole displayed on the bivalve. Both fossils were uncovered in the exact same deposit (Tamiami Formation, Pinecrest Beds of Florida), arguing that they mutual the exact same ecomechanism. Image by Jonathan R. Hendricks.  This job-related is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAprefer 4.0 Internationwide License.

Crabs are additionally vital predators of snails and also bivalves in marine ecodevices. They usage their powerful claws to break the shells of their prey. Their assaults are not always effective in killing their prey, however. In some situations, the shell of the prey is damaged, but is later repaired as it recovers from the strike. Evidence of such assaults are frequently preserved as jagged, high-relief scars that cut across normal lines of development.

A fossil cone snail shell mirroring 3 different sets of scars left by failed predatory attacks by crabs. We recognize that the snail survived each attack bereason brand-new shell was included after the break note. Such feeding map fossils are recognized as "repair scars." This shell is a specimales of Conus spurius and was collected from the Tamiami Formation (Pinecrest Beds) of Florida (PRI 70043). Image by Jonathan R. Hendricks.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAfavor 4.0 Internationwide License.

3. Digestive traces

Digestive trace fossils consist of fossilized excrement. These fossils are scientifically recognized as coprolites. 

Coprolites are scientifically beneficial because they sometimes tell paleontologists what types of food ancient organisms were eating. For instance, some big Cretaceous coprolites contain pieces of dinosaur bone, arguing that the excrement was developed by a huge meat eating dinosaur.

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A coprolite specimales from the Oligocene of Clark County, Oregon (collections of the Paleontological Research Institution). Picture by Jonathan R. Hendricks.  This work-related is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAfavor 4.0 International License.