Insects are one of the most important groups of animals on Earth.
There are probably as many as ten million different species alive today! They are easily recognisable, as they have six legs and a body divided into three parts - a head, thorax (body), and abdomen (tail). Many, like flies, bees and beetles, have at least one pair of wings, while others, like fleas and headlice, have no wings at all.
You can see all types of insects in the fossil record.
The oldest insect fossils are over 400 million years old, but they only became really common about 200 million years ago. Fossils from this time include huge dragonflies with wingspans of up to two feet.
Whole insects can be found as fossils, but single wings can show great detail.
Insects are also found preserved almost perfectly in amber (solidified tree resin). Baltic amber is famous for its insects and is found washed up on the coasts of the Baltic sea. It was formed about 50 million years ago, when massive pine forests were growing in Scandinavia. Older examples of amber, that contain insects that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, have recently been found on the Isle of Wight.
Insects preserved in amber.
The arthropods are split into different groups. Here we will look at the trilobites, crustaceans, insects and other fossil arthropods.
Other fossil arthropods
If you read these pages you should become an expert invertebrate identifier!
The major groups are listed below - select a link to learn more about this type of fossil.
Echinoderms Return to the wheel
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