How is a fossil made?

It takes millions of years to make a fossil. An animal dies. Its body sinks to the bottom of a lake. Sand and silt cover its body. The flesh rots away. Minerals seep into the bones and turn them to stone. The animal is now a fossil. The fossil is found.



How do we know about life in the past?



We find out about life in the past by looking for evidence. Fossils are one kind of evidence. They are the remains of living things that have been preserved. Objects made by humans, such as stone tools, are another kind of evidence.



Is it true? Plants can’t be fossilized.



No. Plants can become fossils, in the same way that animals can. By studying them we learn about the plants that once grew on Earth.



Who looks for prehistoric life?



People who look for remains of prehistoric animals, such as dinosaurs, are called palaeontologists. People who look for ancient humans are archaeologists. They find great things, such as bones, tools, buildings, jeweller and weapons.



Amazing! A sticky resin that oozed from pine trees trapped insects that landed on it. It hardened into a substance called amber. Prehistoric insects are perfectly preserved inside it.






When did modern humans appear?



Just over 100,000 years ago Homo sapiens appeared. The name means ‘wise man’. They were modern humans. In Europe they lived during the freezing Ice Age, a time when glaciers covered the land. The Ice Age ended 12,000 years ago.



Is it true? Homo sapiens have all died out.



No. All people on Earth today are members of Homo sapiens. If they had died out, like other kinds of early human, none of us would be here today!



Where did they live?



Homo sapiens first appeared in Africa, and from there, they spread out across the world. They lived in cave entrances, and in places sheltered by overhanging rocks. In the open they made huts from branches, covered with skins.



Amazing! People who lived during the Ice Age played musical instruments. They made whistles from bones, and drums from shoulder-blades.



Were they artists?



The humans who lived in Europe during the Ice Age were among the first artists. They painted pictures of horses, bison and deer on the walls of their caves. Bone and ivory were carved into figures of animals and people.




Who were the very first humans?

The first people we think of as humans appeared in Africa. About two million years ago, Homo habilis (handy man) appeared. Then, more than one million years ago, Homo erectus (upright man) appeared, but they weren’t modern humans.



Did they have any tools?



Homo habilis was the first tool-user. This is why he is called ‘handy man’. He made simple tools, such as choppers, from pebbles. The tools made by Homo erectus were better. He shaped stones into hand axes, and he was the first to use fire.



What did they eat?



Homo habilis and Homo erectus ate meat and plants. Meat probably came from dead animals which they found. They may have hunted for some small animals. Plants gave them berries and leaves. They used stone tools to cut and scrape their food.



Amazing! Homo erectus had fire. Fire provided warmth, gave heat for cooking, and offered protection from predators.



Is it true? Homo erectus was a wanderer.



Yes. More than one million years ago, Homo erectus began to move out of Africa, travelling to Europe and Asia.




What are mammals?




Mammals have backbones, their bodies are covered in hair or bristles, they make their own body heat, and they feed their young on milk. They have larger brains than most other animals.



When did the first mammals appear?



The first mammals appeared on Earth about 220 million years ago. They lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. Mammals survived after the dinosaurs died out, and then they became the ruling animals on Earth. There are about 4,200 different kinds of mammals alive today.



Amazing! Woolly mammoths were big elephants with extra-long tusks up to 3 metres long. Their bodies were covered in fur.



Did mammals only live on land?



Mammals came to live in all of Earth’s habitats. Many lived on land, but some, such as bats, were able to glide through the air on wings of skin. Other mammals swam in the sea, such as whales, dolphins and seals.



Is it true? The elephant is the largest land mammal ever to have lived.



No. Indricotherium was the largest land mammal. It was almost 8 metres tall and as heavy as four elephants.



Picture Credit : Google


What are birds?




Birds are animals with backbones; they lay eggs, can make their own body heat, and have wings. They are also the only animals with feathers. Not all birds can fly. The first birds lived at the same time as the dinosaurs.



Is it true? Ostrich eggs are the biggest eggs ever laid by a bird.



No. The extinct bird Aepyornis laid the biggest eggs of all time. Each one was about the size of 150 hen’s eggs.



Where do birds come from?



Birds evolved from small, meat-eating dinosaurs. Fossils show that some of these dinosaurs had feathers. They are called ‘dinobirds’. The first ‘dinobirds’ probably could not fly.



Amazing! Today’s hoatzin bird, which lives in South America, has claws on its wings when young - just like Archaeopteryx, its prehistoric ancestor did.



Which was the first true bird?



The first true bird - a bird that could fly - appeared about 150 million years ago. It is known as Archaeopteryx, which means ‘ancient wing’. It had claws on its wings.