The Mystery of Trace Fossils - Home
What are Trace Fossils
Types of Trace Fossils
Been There, Done That!
Who Dunnit?
Scientific BooBoos
Duplicating Life
Activities
Fossil Sites
 
Pour voir davantage  du Musée virtuel du Canada / See more of the Virtual Museum of Canada
  What are Trace Fossils?
 
       
  Trace fossils represent the activities of ancient animals.
       
  Paleo-girl   There are two main types of fossils: body fossils and trace fossils.

Body fossils include any part of the actual animal or plant. Things like bones, teeth, shells, and leaves are considered body fossils.

Trace fossils give us proof of animal life from the past. Trace fossils include things like foot prints, burrows, and fossilized poop.

Modern traces are all around us. Dogs leave paw prints in the mud, you leave shoe prints in the snow, and the dirty dishes you leave in the sink tell me that your belly is full.

Trace fossils provide palaeontologists with evidence of the activities of ancient animals - something body fossils simply can't do. Trace fossils are formed in place and can therefore tell us about the ancient environment in which the animal lived.

One single animal can make thousands and thousands of traces in its lifetime, but it will only leave behind one body when it dies. Because of this, trace fossils are much more common than body fossils.

Trace fossils are moments of time that have been captured forever in the rock record. They are a celebration of life.
       
  How Does Something Become a Fossil?
   
  Live. Die. Get buried.

Well... it's not quite that simple. Most plants and animals will not become fossils. They decay very quickly or get eaten by other critters. If a plant, an animal, or a trace is going to become a fossil, it has to be buried rapidly by sediment (like mud). This happens in places like rivers, lakes, and oceans. Over time, many layers of sediment build up and eventually turn to rock. After more time passes, the layers of rock are brought to the surface of the Earth by forces like earthquakes. The overlying layers of rock are eroded exposing the fossils.
       
  Guestbook Links Credits  
Copyright © Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001. All rights reserved.
This site is optimized for a minimum of 800 * 600 screen resolution.