What Is an Imprint Fossil?

Dinosaur footprints are an example of imprint fossils.
••• Jultud/iStock/Getty Images

Imprint fossils are also known as impression fossils. They do not contain any carbon material. Imprint fossils include coprolites (fossilized feces), footprints, plants or tracks.

Types of Sediment

Moist clay and silt sediment ready to be imprinted.
••• Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images

Imprint fossils are formed in clay and silt sediment. These sediments are fine-grained and moist and can hold onto an imprint for a long period of time.


Plants degrade and leave an imprint fossil of where they once were.
••• PlazacCameraman/iStock/Getty Images

Imprint fossils are formed from an organism moving in some way, leaving behind a trace or track. These tracks are preserved when the clay/silt dries slowly and is covered by other sediment. Plants can also leave imprint fossils when they are covered by sediment. The leaf tissue degrades, leaving an imprint of where the leaf once was.


Imprint fossil tracks.
••• katclay/iStock/Getty Images

Imprint fossils can give information about an organism's activity and the type of ecosystem that existed where the fossil was found.


Scientists can learn how an organism moved based on an imprint fossil.
••• Valeriy Kirsanov/Hemera/Getty Images

Scientists are able to consider how certain organisms moved or interacted with one another, including their gaits and their predator-prey relationships, based on imprint fossils.

Decoding the Fossils

A marine organism imprint fossil.
••• Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

Paleontologists sometimes have a hard time discerning what organism left the imprint fossil, particularly in marine environments where there were many burrowing organisms.

Related Articles

What Information Can Scientists Get From Fossils?
Five Different Types of Fossils
The 5 Types of Fossils
Facts About Trace Fossils
Types of Fossil Preservation
Fossil Facts for Children
Facts About Dinosaurs for Kids
The Four Types of Fossils
The Three Main Types of Fossils
List Some Ways That Fossils Can Be Preserved
What Is a Preserved-Remains Fossil and How Are They...
What Is a Body Fossil?
Fossils That Are Most Useful for Correlation
Fossil Types
Definition of a Preserved Fossil
Types of Plant Fossils
Why Do Scientists Study Fossils?
What Can We Learn by Studying Fossils?
What Are the Causes of the Destruction of Ecosystem?
Types of Fossils & How They Are Formed