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Archaeopteryx fossil, estimated to be between 195-135 million years old. Shows evolutionary transition from dinosaurs to birds.

.Eyes,guts and gills rarely show up in the rock record. Bacteria are so ardent and ubiquitous that they eat away soft tissue long before sediment can turn to stone. Typically only shells, bones and teeth endure. And yet paleontologists have discovered troves of exquisite fossils of entirely soft-bodied animals, such as the four-eyed arthropod Leanchoilia (above), that lived half a billion years ago. The chemical makeup of the ocean half a billion years ago was very different than it is today.

The world's oldest fossil of a salamander has been discovered. Six fossils of 157 million year old salamanders were found embedded in volcanic ash in an ancient lake bed in western Liaoning Province, China. Photo: Mick Ellison, American Museum of Natural History/Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Posted on March 25, 2012

Spinosaurus, in a Paris auction room - (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Kosmoceratops Skull - a genus of herbivorous chasmosaurine ceratopsian dinosaur, which lived during the Late Cretaceous period (late Campanian) in the part of the island continent Laramidia that is now Utah, United States. It is distinguished by an ornate skull, the most ornate of any known dinosaur. The horns above the eyes are long, thin, and pointed. They project laterally from the skull and curve downward.

Fossilized unhatched raptor eggs.

Australopithecus afarensis is an extinct hominid that lived between 3.9 and 2.9 million years ago. A. afarensis was slenderly built, like the younger Australopithecus africanus. It is thought that A. afarensis was more closely related to the genus Homo (which includes the modern human species Homo sapiens), whether as a direct ancestor or a close relative of an unknown ancestor, than any other known primate from the same time. The most famous fossil is the partial skeleton named Lucy.

Australopithecus garhi, first stone tool users (Act 5). "This appears to have many of the characteristics of the other Australopethcines but differs in that it has large molars, like the Paranthropus species. The partial skull fossil was found in association with stone tools. This may be the earliest species to use these."