What is a fossil?

A fossil is the remains, trace, or imprint of an organism (animal, plant, etc.) that has been preserved in the earth's crust (usually in rock) since some past geologic time. Many people think of fossils as bones, but they are much more, including microscopic remnants and even tracks and trails of past life.


  • Are evidence of ancient forms of life (including extinct forms)
  • Are evidence for changes in life through time (evolution and extinction)
  • Can be useful for interpreting the relative age of rock layers (index fossils)
  • Provide data for correlating rock units across great distances
  • Are useful for interpreting ancient environments, climates, and sea level
  • Are part of the science of paleontology

Some Interesting Kentucky Fossil Facts

  • Big Bone Lick in northern Kentucky is world famous for its ice-age fossils
  • The Falls of the Ohio at Louisville is world famous for its Devonian marine fossils
  • Fossils from Kentucky were part of the original evidence for the concept of extinction
  • More than 4,000 fossil species have been reported from Kentucky
  • Most of the fossils found in Kentucky are much older than dinosaurs!
Last Modified on 2019-04-11
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