Paleontology and Fossils

What are fossils?

Fossils are relicts of animal and plant life from geological eras. The earth was created 4.5 – 5 billion years ago. In the course of the next millions of years, mono-cellular life was created through processes that are not entirely scientifically explainable today. Plants and animals found their first habitat in the oceans. Step by step organisms also started living on land. Only few relicts go back to the Precambrian time, more than 570 million years ago. Only from the subsequent ages more fossils have been transmitted.

What stays?

Of the life forms of past times only hard body parts, such as shells, casings and skeletons are fossilized or transferred as imprints in rocks. The processes of fossilization are complex and only few creatures turn into fossils if the circumstances are right. Finding a complete and well maintained fossil is therefore a rare occasion. A unique discovery, which means a discovery of scientific meaning, is even rarer.
Usually only the hard body parts of fossils are preservable. Very rarely these are preserved in their original substances. Often the original substance is replaced with another one. In both cases the fossil is physically preserved. Frequently, organisms just leave behind hollow spaces mirroring their body shape. Sometimes even only the sediment filling of a casing is preserved.  A Creature’s imprints of movement can be fossilized as well.

What can be found in Westphalia?

In Westphalia-Lippe fossils from the Ordovician to the Quaternary periods can be found: That means fossils from the geological eras of the past 500 Million years.