Recovering mantle memories from river profiles

The continent of Africa has a distinctive physical geography—an "egg carton" pattern of basins and swells—that researchers attribute to plumes of mantle rocks rising beneath a tectonic plate. Marine fossils on mountaintops ...

Researchers discover fossil of new species of pangolin in Europe

Deeper analysis of fossils from one of Eastern Europe's most significant paleontological sites has led to the discovery of a new species of pangolin, previously thought to have existed in Europe during the early Pleistocene ...

Fossil research affected by significant colonial bias, study finds

The fossil record, which documents the history of life on Earth, is heavily biased by influences such as colonialism, history and global economics, argues a new study involving paleontologists at the University of Birmingham ...

Sauropod dinosaurs were restricted to warmer regions of Earth

Giant, long-necked sauropods, thought to include the largest land animals ever to have existed, preferred to live in warmer, more tropical regions on Earth, suggesting they may have had a different physiology from other dinosaurs, ...

Study pinpoints timing of Chicxulub asteroid impact

A groundbreaking study led by researchers at Florida Atlantic University and an international team of scientists conclusively confirms the time year of the catastrophic Chicxulub asteroid, responsible for the extinction of ...

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Fossil

Fossils (from Latin fossus, literally "having been dug up") are the preserved remains or traces of animals, plants, and other organisms from the remote past. The totality of fossils, both discovered and undiscovered, and their placement in fossiliferous (fossil-containing) rock formations and sedimentary layers (strata) is known as the fossil record. The study of fossils across geological time, how they were formed, and the evolutionary relationships between taxa (phylogeny) are some of the most important functions of the science of paleontology. Such a preserved specimen is called a "fossil" if it is older than some minimum age, most often the arbitrary date of 10,000 years ago. Hence, fossils range in age from the youngest at the start of the Holocene Epoch to the oldest from the Archaean Eon several billion years old. The observations that certain fossils were associated with certain rock strata led early geologists to recognize a geological timescale in the 19th century. The development of radiometric dating techniques in the early 20th century allowed geologists to determine the numerical or "absolute" age of the various strata and thereby the included fossils.

Like extant organisms, fossils vary in size from microscopic, such as single bacterial cells only one micrometer in diameter, to gigantic, such as dinosaurs and trees many meters long and weighing many tons. A fossil normally preserves only a portion of the deceased organism, usually that portion that was partially mineralized during life, such as the bones and teeth of vertebrates, or the chitinous exoskeletons of invertebrates. Preservation of soft tissues is rare in the fossil record. Fossils may also consist of the marks left behind by the organism while it was alive, such as the footprint or feces (coprolites) of a reptile. These types of fossil are called trace fossils (or ichnofossils), as opposed to body fossils. Finally, past life leaves some markers that cannot be seen but can be detected in the form of biochemical signals; these are known as chemofossils or biomarkers.

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