A fossil was recently found which gives us a snapshot of a moment in time 150 million years ago. It’s of an ammonite, which is not unusual. Except, it’s not just the ammonite but also the path it took over the sea bed which has been preserved.
What we are looking at when we see a fossil is something which was once alive, just like you and me. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that but to see the tracks made by an animal really brings a fossil to life.
As I said, the tracks were made by an ammonite. But what exactly is one of those? Well, here’s a list of facts all about ammonites:
- Ammonites first appeared around 400 million years ago. That’s 200 million years before the dinosaurs
- Ammonites were ocean-dwelling cephalopods and related to squids and octopodes
- What did they look like? The nautilus (pictured to the right) has a similar appearance but is only distantly related
- We think (because all living cephalopods are predators) that ammonites were carnivores, but we can’t be 100% sure of this
- They could control their depth under water by filling up or expelling air from their shells. They ‘swam’ in a similar way by ejecting jets of water from their shells
- Most ammonites were quite small, about 23cm across. But the largest one ever found was 2 metres wide
- They died out 65 million years ago in the same mass extinction event which killed 75% of all life, including the dinosaurs
- Ammonites are one of the most commonly found fossils. Their hard shells were often buried on the sea floor and, over millions of years, turned into stone
- Ammonite shells have a spiral shape, similar to those of a snail, though with ‘ribs’ like those found on a ram’s horn
- They’re named after the Egyptian god, Ammon, who himself had horns like a ram
- In the Middle Ages people in Ireland thought that ammonites were snakes which had been turned to stone by Saint Patrick
I find fossils and evolution fascinating. If you do too then why not try Education Quizzes? We have sections on science for all ages from KS1 to GCSE. It might be your first step towards a career as a dinosaur hunter, so give it a go!