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For many people the word “fossil” probably conjures an image of a bit of hardened bone or shell, but fossils can take many forms.

An imprint of a leaf, an insect preserved in amber or a footprint are all examples of different types of fossils.

There are many ways fossils can form, and we'll get to all that in a minute.

First, let's discuss the two main ways that fossils can be classified: The remains of a Hadrosaur are an example of a body fossil, or fossils of the actual organism.

Scientists use fossils to gather information about the lives and evolutionary relationships of organisms, for understanding geological change and even for locating fossil fuel reserves.

The oldest fossils on Earth are about 3.8 billion years old, or almost a billion years younger than the planet itself.

Plants, animals and insects can all leave fossilized remains, but organisms that are completely soft-bodied, such as jellyfish, are less likely to leave fossils when they’re gone.

Hard body parts like teeth, bone and shell are most likely to be preserved (reference 1).

Veloz holds a doctorate in the biological sciences and a Master of Arts in English from the University of California, Davis.Try It risk-free Fossils provide scientists with many clues about Earth's history, offering evidence of dinosaurs and strange plants that existed in the past.This lesson will define a fossil, look at different types and characteristics of fossils, and then describe how fossils are formed.Fossils are remains or traces of past organisms that have been preserved by nature.And here's a fun fact: the word 'fossil' is Latin and actually means 'obtained by digging,' which makes sense because they are often buried.

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Using information pieced together from fossil evidence, scientists can reconstruct body types of animals that no longer exist and put together a “Tree of Life” to describe the evolutionary relationships between organisms (reference 3). Most organisms are not preserved in the fossil record.

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