Why Are Fossils Important?

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Fossils are important in understanding the history of the world because they provide physical evidence of animals and plants that lived in the past. Through their discovery, paleontologists uncover new ideas about former life on earth.

Fossils are the remains, impressions or traces of organisms that existed millions of years ago. Body fossils are the actual remnants of organisms that have been naturally preserved, such as bones, teeth, scales, shells and skeletons. Usually, fossils are preserved in sedimentary rock and bodies of water.

Paleontologists also find trace fossils, which are indirect signs of an organism’s existence. An example of a trace fossil is a footprint or mark in the sediment, suggesting the movement pattern of organisms.

Through fossils, paleontologists have uncovered information about the anatomy and behavior of organisms, evolution of life and habitat development. The earliest fossils are believed to be of marine mammals from the Precambrian era.