Paleontology is the study of ancient life, which is different from the commonly confused archaeology (the study of past human civilization and artifacts). The scientists that study paleontology are called paleontologists, and they garner information about prehistoric life by unearthing, studying, and interpreting fossils. Fossils are the remains of previously living life forms (animals, plants, fungus, bacteria, etc.) that have now become stone. Fossils occur when a once living organism is rapidly covered with sediments. Within those sediments are minerals that gradually replace the biological item cell by cell, progressively turning it into stone. Subfossils of more recently deceased (yet still prehistoric) life forms have been uncovered as well, in which case only parts of the entity have been fossilized. Trace fossils (or Ichnofossils) are prehistoric evidence of biological activity, such as footprints, burrows, or coprolites (fossilized dung). Other methods of preserving prehistoric life can also occur, such as the solidifying of tree sap into amber as it preserves prehistoric insects, or the freezing of more geologically recent "Ice Age" creatures in permafrost, such as the meat and hair of woolly mammoths. Paleontologists use fossils to better understand what the world was like in prehistoric times, and to discover how these life forms evolved over geologic time. Fossils and rocks are generally dated by means of radiometric methods, such as the highly precise and accurate method of argon-argon dating. The study of fossils has been around since the time of Ancient Greece, though its true beginning would lie in the work of French naturalist Georges Cuvier in the 18th century, when he began to use comparative anatomy between fossils and modern day life. In 1822, the word "paleontology" would be invented to describe the study and interpretation of fossils.
DINOSAUR & BIRD FOSSILS
FISH & SHARK FOSSILS