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A fossil (from Classical Latin fossilis; literally, "obtained by digging") is any preserved remains, impression, or trace of any once-living thing from a past geological age. Examples include bones, shells, exoskeletons, stone imprints of animals or microbes, hair, petrified wood, oil, coal, and DNA remnants. The totality of fossils is known as the fossil record.

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Fossils Rewrite Evolutionary History on Earth

Species thought to have died out 20 million years earlier in the Cambrian era are next to others not believed to have evolved by the time the deposits had been laid down. A 477 million year old formation known as the Lower Ordovician Fezouata demonstrates that hundreds of multi-cellular lifeforms from that time survived longer than previously thought. "The formation demonstrates how important exceptionally preserved fossils are to our understanding of major evolutionary events in deep time" says author Peter Van Roy of Yale.

Contributed by Sam Feldstone

An amazingly preserved fossil of a protoceratops (part of the triceratops family) locked in battle with a velociraptor. It's the kind of daydream you'd have as a kid, after watching Jurassic Park. This fossil was discovered in the Gobi Desert in 1971. Photo credit: University of British Columbia

Contributed by Bridget LaMonica

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