Fossil Formation

The National Science Education Standards Life Science Content Standard mentions that fossils indicate extinct species and contribute to an understanding of evolution and diversity. The Earth and Space Sciences Content Standard tells us they provide clues about past environments. But what is a fossil? How does it form? The processes can be complex. An understanding of fossil formation will enable accurate student conceptions of related science concepts including methods of science in geology, paleontology, and evolution.

Becoming a Fossil
This short video clip from NOVA is accompanied by an essay and discussion questions all describing the rare conditions under which fossils form and are found. Free registration is required.

What is a Fossil? How Do They Form?
This page provides a concise explanation and illustrations of Ammonites fossil formation via permineralization – when the pores of the plant or animal remains are impregnated by minerals. When this happens, the original shape of the object is not changed.

The information on this page is good, if you can bear the bright green background! It includes some vocabulary and how environmental conditions determine the fossil category. There are useful links at the bottom as well to teacher resources.

Fossils, Rocks, and Time
This online book, published by the U. S. Geological Survey, discusses the use of fossils in determining the age of rocks. The book covers how to place events in correct temporal order, a description of the geologic time scale, the use of fossils to indicate rock ages, the law of fossil succession, index fossils, and radioactive dating.

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