Digging Up The Strangest Fossils

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Digging Up The Strangest Fossils

Fossils, even strange ones, are one of the best clues we have to tracing back species' origins—from plants, to fish, to early humans. Archeologists refer to fossil records to tell the story of Earth's earliest inhabitants and can fill in significant historical and anthropological gaps. In 2001, scientists in northwest China discovered more than 100 dinosaur footprints believed to date back as far as 100 million years. In Korea, researchers found a 100-million-year-old crocodilian dinosaur fossil, believed to be the oldest complete dinosaur skull in existence. Thanks to the preservation of bones, feathers, fur, hard bodies and more through fossils, the secrets to periods such as Crustaceous and Jurassic are slowing being unlocked.

To what depth do fossils reveal the origins of species? What can they tell us about other areas of study, such as geography, geology or zoology? Scientists are looking for the answers to these questions and more. Take a journey through time with these videos as experts explain the details in discovering some of the strangest fossils.

About this Video

from American Museum of Natural History

Paleontology is the science of studying fossils from ancient organisms, and paleontologists are scientists who find and study those fossils. Definitions of exactly what constitutes a fossil vary to some extent, but basically, fossils are naturally preserved physical traces of long-dead organisms. Usually, these traces consist of an organism's hard parts, such as bones, teeth, shells, or wood. Occasionally, when conditions are optimal, soft parts of organisms can also fossilize, such as impressions of skin, body outlines, and, more commonly, leaves. In almost all cases, fossils provide information about the original shape and structure of these physical traces; however, they usually do not provide any information about the original color of the body parts. Other traces of objects made by organisms, such as footprints, burrows, and nests, also qualify to be called fossils. Also, most definitions of fossils require that the organism's body part or other physical trace be more than 10,000 years old in order to truly be called a fossil. However, objects made by prehistoric humans, such as pottery, arrowheads and buildings, are not considered to be fossils, but instead are referred to as anthropological artifacts.

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