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Earth Science 3.4 : Looking at Fossils
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Earth Science 3.4 : Looking at Fossils


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  • 1. Earth Science 3.4
    Looking at Fossils
  • 2. Describe five ways that different types of fossils form.
    List three types of fossils that are not part of organisms.
    Explain how fossils can be used to determine the history of changes in environments and organisms.
    Explain how index fossils can be used to date rock layers.
  • 3. Fossilized Organisms
    The trace or remains of an organism that lived long ago, most commonly preserved in sedimentary rock.
    Most often preserved in sedimentary rock, but other materials can also preserve evidence of past life.
    Fossils in Rocks
    When an organism dies, it either begins to decay or is consumed by other organisms. Sometimes dead organisms are quickly buried by sediment, which slows down decay.
    Shells and bones are more resistant to decay than soft tissues, so when sediments become rock, the harder structures are more commonly preserved.
  • 4. Fossils in Amber
    Organisms occasionally become trapped in soft, sticky tree sap, which hardens and becomes amber.
    Insect fossils have often been preserved in this way, but frogs and lizards have also been found in amber.
    Process in which minerals replace and organism’s tissues.
    Process in which the pore space in an organism’s hard tissue is filled up with mineral.
    Process in which an organism’s tissues are completely replaced by minerals.
  • 5. Fossils in Asphalt
    There are places where asphalt wells up at the Earth’s surface. These thick, sticky pools can trap and preserve organisms.
    Frozen Fossils
    Since cold temperatures slow down decay, many types of fossils have been found preserved in ice.
  • 6. Other Types of Fossils
    Trace Fossils
    Naturally preserved evidence of animal activity
    Preserved animal tracks
    Preserved burrows or shelters that were made by animals
    Coprolite, which is preserved animal dung.
    Molds and Casts are two more examples of fossils.
    mark or cavity made in a sedimentary surface by a shell or other body.
    type of fossil that forms when sediments fill the cavity left by a decomposed organism.
  • 7. Using Fossils to Interpret the Past
    The Information in the Fossil Record
    Offers only a rough sketch of the history of life on Earth.
    Incomplete because most organisms never became fossils.
    Scientists know more information about organisms that had hard body parts and that lived in environments that favored fossilization.
    History of Environmental Changes
    The fossil record reveals changes in an area’s climate over time.
    By using the fossils of plants and land animals, scientists can reconstruct past climates.
    History of Changing Organisms
    By studying the relationships between fossils, scientists can interpret how life has changed over time.
  • 8. Using Fossils to Date Rocks
    Scientists have learned that particular types of fossils appear only in certain layers of rock.
    By dating the rock layers above and below these fossils
    Scientists can determine the time span in which the organisms that formed the fossils lived.
    If a type of organism existed for only a short period of time, its fossils would show up in a limited range of rock layers.
    These fossils are called index fossils.
    Index fossils
    Found in the rock layers of only one geologic age, and can be used to establish the age of the rock layers.
  • 9.
  • 10. Ammonites
    Tropites,a marine mollusk similar to a modern squid, lived between 230 million and 208 million years ago.
    Fossils of a genus of trilobites called Phacopsare another example of an index fossil.
    Trilobites are extinct and lived approximately 400 million years ago.
    When scientists find Phacops in a rock, they assume that the rock is approximately 400 million years old.