Fossils are the preserved remains, traces, or imprints of once-living organisms that have been preserved in rock or other geological materials over millions of years. Fossils provide crucial evidence of past life on Earth and play a significant role in the study of paleontology, the scientific discipline focused on understanding ancient life forms and their environments.
Fossilization occurs through a process called mineralization, where the original organic material of an organism is gradually replaced by minerals from surrounding sediments or groundwater. This transformation preserves the shape and structure of the organism, creating a fossil.
There are various types of fossils, including:
- Body Fossils: These fossils preserve the actual remains of organisms, such as bones, teeth, shells, and soft tissues. Body fossils offer direct evidence of the organisms that once lived.
- Trace Fossils: Trace fossils are indirect evidence of past life and include footprints, tracks, burrows, and other impressions left behind by ancient organisms.