It is through the fossils of our ancestors and other prehistoric creatures that the scientific community has been able to reconstruct the history of this planet and the origins of those that inhabit it. With every new fossil discovery, however, the story continues to change and evolve.
Dinosaurs are probably some of the most magnificent creatures to ever roam the earth. For more than 160 million years, they ruled the food chain, and around 65 million years ago, they went extinct. Similarly, there were millions of other animals, birds, and microorganisms that once thrived and fought for land and water domination. Thanks to fossils, scientists today have some incredible information about life on our planet.
While a vast majority of fossils are rare and impressive, some have a more profound impact on our understanding of life.
Here are a few of the most famous and important fossil discoveries of all time:
Lucy was discovered by Donald Johanson, a paleontologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Also known as AL 288-1, she was found at Hadar, a site in the Awash Valley of the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia. This was one of the first discoveries of a nearly complete hominid skeleton, although it was only a collection of fossilized bone fragments that make up less than 50% of the skeleton of a female Australopithecus afarensis hominin.
Yuka isn’t really your regular fossil; it is a well-preserved carcass of a young female Woolly Mammoth. In fact, it is known to be the best-preserved Woolly Mammoth carcass. Found in 2010 by Siberian tusk hunters on the Oyogos Yar coast, it was handed over to scientists two years later. Today, it is on display in Moscow. Found near the village of Yukagir, it was named after the people who discovered it.
Sue the T. rex
A permanent exhibit at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Sue is the nickname given to the fossilized T. rex known as FMNH PR 2081. It is one of the most well-preserved, complete, and detailed Tyrannosaurus rex fossils to be ever discovered. It was found in 1990 by an adventurer and fossil hunter, Sue Hendrickson, and was later named after her.
Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” in 1860, which was miraculously followed by a series of fossil discoveries at the limestone deposits of Solnhofen, Germany. It was here that a complete fossil of a small ancient creature, Archaeopteryx, was also found. A pigeon-sized dinosaur that looked like a bird, Archaeopteryx, was the missing link between birds and dinosaurs.
The oldest known fossil
The world’s oldest fossils are ruins of colonies of ancient bacteria known as stromatolites. They were found in Greenland in rocks that were 3.7 billion years old. It is widely believed that life on earth began around 4 billion years ago, making stromatolites the first organisms on the planet.
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