Dinosaurs Fossils

Not all fossils of dinosaurs are only bones. There have actually been discoveries of dinosaurs who were buried in mud pits under water or trapped in frozen glaciers where archeologists and paleontologists have been able to recover entire fossilized dinosaur bodies. This is much of the myth around the movie Jurassic Park which speculates what would happen if new dinosaurs were cloned from fossilized animal matter. Fossilization makes that impossible but it’s a fun movie anyway.

Obviously not all dinosaurs that lived and died so many millions of years ago resulted in fossils we can find and put on display at the local natural history museum. If you think about it, if you or I were to fall down in your back yard and die, would you necessarily turn into a fossil for some future group of curious scientists to put on display in their natural history museums? Of course not. That is because for a fossil to survive for millions of years, certain specific conditions have to exist around that creature after its life is over.

We know that nature has a way of disposing of deceased things because we are part of that circle of life every day. One enemy of fossilization is decay which is easy to witness if you leave a piece of cheese or hamburger meat out for too long. It will eventually go bad and even grow mold. That decay is what destroyed many fine dinosaurs who would have become fossils for us to enjoy. We didn’t invent decay. It was around when the dinosaurs roamed the earth too.

In addition to decay, scavengers and insects or bacteria that consume deceased things also have to be taken out of the picture if a dinosaur body was going to go on to become a world famous fossil exhibit. In California, there is a famous location where many dinosaur fossils have been recovered. It is called the La Brea Tar Pits. Sadly, it was the cause of death for many dinosaurs who stumbled into the pits back in primitive times.

The reason the pits became such a rich source of fossils is that when a dinosaur victim fell into the pits, their bodies were submerged into the tar where air, bacteria and scavengers could not reach it. The result was none of the normal ways a body decomposes could happen so the La Brea Tar Pits perfectly preserved those dinosaur bodies until they “fossilized” and there they waited to be discovered by excited paleontologists in our time.

Amazingly, North America has had more dinosaur fossil discoveries than any other part of the world. Part of that might come from the fact that North America is so heavily inhabited and even our wild areas are under management by the National Parks. So our lands get heavily explored. If other areas of the world get that kind of scrutiny, we would probably get to see hundreds more dinosaur fossils, which would teach us even more about this fascinating part of the history of our planet.