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What Is a Fossil? (Grade 5)

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What Is a Fossil?

Instructions: Read the passage then answer the questions.

Name a dinosaur. Do you know what food the dinosaur ate? What it looked like? How do we know so much about these animals that no longer exist? We can thank fossils for what we know about the dinosaurs!

A fossil is evidence of plants and animals that are no longer here. Any type of remains or evidence of past life is a fossil. Some fossils are parts of organisms. Shells and bones are examples of fossil remains. Some fossils show traces that the plant or animal was once there. Footprints, burrows, and eggshells are all examples that an organism was once there.
Fossils tell us about the past. We can learn about the plants and animals that lived long ago. We can learn about extinct organisms that no longer live on Earth. We can even learn about the type of environment that was once there. For example, a fish fossil found on dry land tells us that water once covered the land.

It may seem like we should find fossils everywhere. But, most organisms do not preserve well. Animals eat remains before they can become fossils. Some animals have soft body parts that breakdown before they become fossils. Rocks, where fossils form, break apart and change over time. Even though fossils are rare, the oldest known fossils are over three billion years old!

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