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Different types of fossils

There are lots of different types of fossils to be found

When most people think of fossils they think of dinosaur skeletons and large bones, but there are many different types of fossils to be found. Palaeontologists, people who study fossils, divide them into two major types - body fossils and trace fossils.

Ammonite Aigialosaur Fossil plant
Body fossils show us what a plant or animal looked like.

The first type, body fossils, are the fossilised remains of an animal or plant, like bones, shells and leaves. These can be mould and cast fossils, like most of the fossilised dinosaur skeletons and big bones we see, replacement fossils, like petrified wood, or whole body fossils - mammoths caught in ice, or insects trapped in amber.

Petrified wood Mammoth Insects in amber
Petrified wood, frozen mammoths, and insects in amber are all body fossils.

The second type of fossil records the activity of an animal. Known as trace fossils, these include footprints, trackways, and coprolites (fossil poo!).

Petrified wood Mammoth Insects in amber
Footprints and coprolites are trace fossils - they show us how an animal lived.


There are lots of different types of fossil. Why not find out more about fossils?

If you read these pages you should get a pretty good idea of what a fossil is.

Introducing the basics What can fossils tell us?
How do fossils form? Different types of fossils

Find out more about fossils by visiting Invertebrate I.D. or the History of life