From the folklore of the great Megalodon to the prevalence of fossils, Natural History is all around us and shapes our world today, even when we are unaware of it. Natural History focuses on studying plants, animals, and their environment through observation rather than experimentation. As a result, the discoveries are presented in a more mainstream format instead of an academic format.
This format style allows us, even from a young age, to immerse ourselves in this realm by visiting Natural History Museums across the United States and the world.
What Are the Two Major Types of Fossils?
There are a wide array of different types of fossils that have been found and studied by scientists and naturists across the world. Paleontologists divide fossils into two main categories, both equally important in discovering and learning about the past.
Two Main Categories of Fossils
- Body Fossils
- Trace Fossils
Body Fossils on Display: Bones, teeth, shells, or leaves—anything that makes up the structure of the plant or animal is considered a body fossil. Body fossils are the category most people immediately think of when they hear the word fossil.
Natural History Museums around the globe have varying dinosaur sculptures on display. If you are unable to visit a museum in real life, The American Museum of Natural History came to life in the 2006 film Night at the Museum.
Tracing Our History with Fossils: These types of fossils indicate what life was like for the plant or animal. Trace fossils record the biological activity of an organism. They encompass everything from footprints to poop!
We leave an abundance of trace evidence behind on a regular basis, as do our pets. Pawprints in the snow, tire tracks on the road, and the food we discard in the trashcan are all indicators of our life and environment. Trace fossils are much more common than body fossils, considering one organism has the potential to leave hundreds of trace evidence behind on a daily basis.
Five Fascinating Natural History Discoveries
No bones about it, discovering fossils from a long-extinct organism is incredible. It is also vital in understanding and preventing future animal extinctions.
From Megalodons to coprolite and everything in between, these are the most interesting and fascinating Natural History discoveries.
1. Why are they called Megalodons?
Translating literally to “Large Tooth," the Megalodon's teeth measure up to 18 centimeters long; that's over 7 inches! Compare that to the average 2.1-inch length of a Great White Shark tooth, and you can appreciate how it got its name.
The Megalodon is widely accepted as the largest and most powerful predator, in addition to being the largest fish that has ever existed. Sharks continually reproduce teeth and can grow up to 40,000 teeth in a lifetime, which is why the most common Megalodon fossils found are their teeth.
While Megalodons were previously believed to be related to the Great White Shark, current research suggests that not only were they not related, but the Great White Sharks were most likely responsible for the extinction of the Megalodons!
2. What is So Special About SUE?
Discovered in 1990 by Susan Hendrickson in Faith, South Dakota, SUE is currently displayed at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. SUE is the largest T.rex specimen discovered by humans. Scientists have discovered 250 of the presumed 380 fossilized bones in the T.rex, more than 90% complete.
At over 40 feet long and 13 feet tall, SUE is the largest skeleton out of the over 30 T.rex's discovered. In addition, SUE's skull weighs an impressive 600 pounds! Despite being extinct, SUE is still up with current technology; you can join the more than 75,000 users following SUE on Twitter.
3. Do Trilobites Bite?
With over 17,000 known species, Trilobites are the most diverse animal group scientists have preserved in fossil form. Horseshoe crabs have a similar exoskeleton making them the closest relation in modern times.
Trilobites are an extinct and exclusively marine arthropod. These invertebrates consist of an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages, specifically a three-segmented form and three-lobed body, hence their name.
Despite their name, the Trilobite did not bite since they didn't have a jaw. After thriving for 250 million years, Trilobites became extinct nearly 252 million years ago at the end of the Permian era, when over 90% of life on earth was eliminated.
4. Do You Want to Buy A Dinosaur?
Big John is 66 million years old and the largest Triceratops ever located on planet Earth. He measures 5-10% larger than any other Triceratops. Discovered in 2014 in South Dakota and transported to Italy, a dedicated team of scientists worked to meticulously reconstruct the over 200 skeletal bones.
Big John is an impressive 24 feet long, with each horn measuring over 1 meter (3.28 feet) and 700kg (1543.24 lbs)! His skull is 8ft 7in long and accounts for ⅓ of its entire body.
The good news is you have an opportunity to own Big John. On October 21, 2021, Big John will go up for auction in Paris. The skeleton is expected to fetch close to 1.7 million dollars. Surprisingly, that will not give Big John the title of most expensive dinosaur skeleton to be sold at auction. That title is currently held by Stan the T.rex, who brought in a whopping 37.8 million dollars in October of 2020 to an unknown bidder.
5. Oh, Coprolite!
Better known as fossilized poop, it is one of the more curious trace fossils scientists have discovered. You can see T.rex poop in person at the Orlando Science Center in Orlando, Florida. This two-foot-long piece of excrement is named Barnum and is also a Guinness World Record holder for "world's largest fossilized excrement from a carnivore."
Suppose you're not in a position to bid on the world's largest Triceratops skeleton or visit the world's largest T.rex coprolite. In that case, you can still find a variety of fossils in your price range, including, but not limited to, Megalodon teeth.