The Three Main Types of Fossils

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Fossils have been used throughout history to document and date the different species of animals that have existed on Earth. From dinosaurs to neanderthals, fossils are integral to the accurate dating of life's time line on the planet. According to "Enchanted Learning," archaeologists use three main types of fossil: the true form fossil, trace fossil and mold fossil; a fourth type is the cast fossil. Fossilization can take millions of years to occur.

True Form Fossils

A true form fossil of a plant.
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These fossils are made of an actual plant or animal. The hard parts of the body like the bones or stems were trapped in rock and effectively preserved. The soft parts of the body like the skin and muscle usually decompose before fossilization can occur.

Trace Fossils

Footprints are one example of trace fossils.
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According to "Enchanted Learning," these fossils can record the behaviors and movements of animals. Footprints, nests and fecal matter are all examples that reveal information about the animal's lifestyle.

Mold Fossils

A mold fossil.
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According to "Exploring Earth," mold fossils are hollow impressions left by a plant or animal. The surrounding mud and sediment hardens around the dead organism and only an imprint of it remains after decomposition.

Cast Fossils

Scientist working with a cast fossil.
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A cast fossil is a byproduct of a mold fossil. According to "Exploring Earth," when sediment fills in a hollow mold fossil, a cast fossil forms. The cast is a natural occurring replica of the actual organism.


About the Author

Based in Washington, D.C., Jacob Burney has been writing professionally since 2005. He has written articles for "Broncos GameDay" magazine and the 2007 "South Pacific Games." He has also written several approved grant proposals. He is a former Peace Corps volunteer and holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Bucknell University with minors in philosophy and religion.

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