What are fossils?
Fossils are the remains or traces of animals and plants from past geological ages. They may be bones, shells, pollen or even footprints of dinosaurs. The fossils maybe as large as a mammoth or so small you need a microscope to see them. Along the North Norfolk Coast you may find fragments of mammoth bones, tusks and even teeth.
How are fossils made?
Fossils are often described as parts of living things which died long ago. It takes a long time to make a fossil. So how is a fossil made?
They are often formed after a dead animal/plant/fish is buried under mud or silt. Gradually more layers of sediment form and put lots of weight and pressure onto the remains. Eventually the remains turn to rock or stone, but this process can take millions of years.
The most famous fossil found on the North Norfolk Coast is the Runton Elephant which is the fossil skeleton of a Steppe mammoth that roamed over North Norfolk around 750,000 years ago. The mammoth probably fell into a swamp and was then covered by sediments like sand and clay.
Fossils that you can find
There are lots of smaller fossils that you can find on our beaches. There are belemnites, sponges and ammonites, and much smaller fossils like the microscopic coccoliths. Coccoliths are shells of animals that make up the bulk of the Chalk strata we see exposed at low-tide and they are in some of our cliffs too.
BELEMNITES look like bullets, and they are the hard parts of a squid-like animal that lived in the warm seas of the Cretaceous Period, when the Chalk was deposited.
Belemnites, like dinosaurs, are now extinct .
AMMONITES look like coiled worms or snakes. They are also fossils of extinct animals that lived in the warm shallow seas off the Cretaceous Period, and they are related to our modern squids, octopuses, snails and slugs. They range in size from a few millimetres in diameter to the size of a tall person (1.8m), but the ones we find on our beaches are usually pebble-size
SPONGES are animals not plants, and we can find sponge fossils of various shapes and sizes on our beaches. Look at the picture of fossil sponges and think of words that describe their shapes. Unlike belemnites and ammonites, sponges are not extinct, and we still use them today in the bath.
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