Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of prehistoric animals and plants found in sedimentary rocks. A fossil could be a bone, a shell or leaf but it could also be a footprint or burrow. In fact, any preserved evidence of the activity of prehistoric life on the planet could be considered a fossil. There is no clear definition of how old something has to be to be classified as a fossil but it's fair to say that anything older than 1 million years is a safe bet.
The fossils of the Jurassic Coast come from rocks that formed between 250 and 65 million years ago. This part of Earths history is known as the Mesozoic Era – the 'middle ages' of life on Earth - and is split into to three geological periods:
The Jurassic Coast is designated a World Heritage Site partly because the rocks form an almost complete record of the Mesozoic Era. The fossils trapped in those rocks are the record of life during that time, giving us glimpses at lost habitats, vanished ecosystems and the slow evolution of life on Earth. This is one of the most exciting stories from the Jurassic Coast and, with new discoveries made almost every year, it is one that is still developing.
The Fossil Finder is a database of almost 1,000 fossils from museums in Dorset and East Devon. Most specimens were found on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
The vast time scales involved in Earth's history are difficult to grasp. The time spiral below is one way of showing the major events in the evolution of life. The Mesozoic Era is the time that fossils from the Jurassic Coast come from.
A new book that takes a quirky look at the Jurassic Coast has been published in time for Christmas – and it’s already proving to be a big hit. The Jurassic Coast – A Mighty Tale is published by The Jurassic Coast Trust and is written and illustrated by local artist Tim Britton.
Are you a Primary Teacher and need more help to effectively teach Rocks, Fossils and Evolution in your science curriculum? Then come and join us for a FREE training day led by Primary education consultant David Weatherly. Our special Big Jurassic Classroom Superteachers will also be on hand to take you through their own resources they have developed for the new Primary Science curriculum.