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Fossil Friday: There are Many Different Kinds of Fossils! Part 1

By Synthia Durrant


Quiz (Answers to quiz are at the end of this blog post.)

2) Blue Babe the fossil was named after:

a) The fossil was named after Paul Bunyan’s pet who was colored blue and

named, “Babe the Ox”

b) The type of clay the fossil was found in is called “Blue Clay” and is known for it’s

absorbent properties which helped to mummify the fossil

c) The tourists who discovered the fossil only had a blue baby blanket to mark the

location while they went to notify authorities

d) The name “Blue Babe” refers to the fact that this species only had blue-eyed

babies whose eyes would change color to black as they grew up


2) The earliest known fossils are from which time?

a) Around 3,500 years ago

b) Around 350,000 years ago

c) Around 350 Million years ago

d) Around 3.5 Billion years ago


Different Ways to Make Fossils

Fossils come in all shapes and sizes. Some are very large, like mastodon and dinosaur bones, others so small you can’t see them without a microscope, like bacteria and spores, and fossils come in every size in between.


Some fossils are the actual remains of an ancient organism that has been preserved, Preserved fossils have been found in permafrost, ice, amber (hardened tree resin), or by means of other natural mummification (removal of body moisture). Other kinds of fossils are made by being “mineralized”. This occurs when the natural minerals in an organism are slowly replaced with other minerals. Another way to make a fossil is called “authigenic preservation”, this is when an impression from an organism remains in clay or mud long after that animal, plant, or other organism has gone (1).


Examples of Fossils Left Behind After “Preservation"

“Dogor” the Pup is an 18,000-year-old pre-wolf/pre-dog whose entire body has been preserved in permafrost (A).

Dogor is an 18,000-year-old pup discovered in Siberia who is so well preserved he appears to be sleeping. Dogor was preserved in permafrost. The pup’s tissues were mummified (dried out) and never broke down because it was frozen and lost all of it’s moisture so quickly after it died. Scientists describe the process as “freeze drying”. Genetic testing on Dogor shows the pup may be from a kind of canine (related to dogs) that existed before wolves and dogs became different species (3).


“Blue Babe” is a 36,000 year old Steppe-Bison found preserved in ice in Alaska (B).

Blue Babe is a Steppe-Bison that roamed about 36,000 years ago. The perfectly preserved body of Blue Babe was discovered in the ice in Alaska. The bluish tint of this Steppe-Bison reminded scientists of Paul Bunyan’s pet, Babe the Ox. Unlike many freeze-dried fossils, Blue Babe still retains his 3-dimensional shape and is considered fully in-tact (complete) (4).


The above “moa claw” is all that is left behind from a massive bird from what is now New Zealand. This moa claw is thought to be 3,300 years old (C).

A mummified moa claw (Troodor sp.) was discovered in 1987 in a cave in New Zealand. When scientists first discovered it, they thought it was a dinosaur talon, but after careful examination, they realized it was a relic (something left behind) from the large birds that once inhabited the area. This particular specimen is thought to have existed around 3,300 years ago, but the species became extinct around 700 to 800 years ago (3).


An example of a Moa skeleton displayed next to a man. This Moa was around 8-9 feet tall, but Moas ranged in size from the size of modern turkeys to 12 feet tall (D).

Fossils can tell us so many interesting things about history, climate, geology, animals, and many other things that existed long before humans. Preserved fossils are especially interesting because we can get a good idea what a specimen looked like while it was still living. Most fossils, however, are not “preserved”. Preserved fossils, in fact make up the rarest form of fossil


There are other kinds of fossils beside “preserved” fossils, and examples of different kinds of fossils will be presented in following the Fossil Friday blog updates.


Quiz Answers

1) Blue Babe the fossil is named after:

a) The fossil was named after Paul Bunyan’s pet who was colored blue and

named, “Babe the Ox”


2) The earliest known fossils are from which time?

d) Around 350 Billion years ago


Definitions

Amber-a fossil resin (usually from trees) (6)

Canine-anything relating to dogs

Mummification-to cause to dry up and shrivel (7)

Permafrost-a permanently frozen layer of the earth (8)

Preserved-saved or kept from decomposition (9)

Relic-anything left behind after a person, place, or thing has gone (10)


References


Photos

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