What is the Difference Between Body Fossil and Trace Fossil

The main difference between body fossil and trace fossil is that body fossils are part of an organism’s body whereas trace fossils are anything made by an organism.

Body fossils and trace fossils are two types of fossils. Generally, fossils are physical remains of organisms:  animals, plants, and bacteria.   

Key Areas Covered

1. What is a Body Fossil
    – Definition, Features, Importance
2. What is a Trace Fossil
    – Definition, Features, Importance
3. Similarities Between Body Fossil and Trace Fossil
    – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Body Fossil and Trace Fossil
    – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Body Fossil, Trace FossilBody Fossil vs Trace Fossil - Comparison Summary

What is a Body Fossil

Body fossils are parts of the body of organisms that lived before 10,000 years. Generally, the types of organisms that lived in the past include animals, plants, and microbes. Some examples of body fossils include skeletal remains such as bones and teeth, the skin of animals, and wood, bark, and leaves of plants. The most common type of body fossils is bones. It is also the main source of fossils of dinosaurs. The first dinosaur bone was found in 1818 and William Parker Foulke found the first intact skeleton of a dinosaur in 1858.

Comapre Body Fossil and Trace Fossil

Figure 1: Dinosaur Skeleton

Furthermore, some of the body fossils are ‘unaltered remains’ with very little physical or chemical damage. Among them, some are buried in glaciers. Some small animals trapped in amber are also intact.  Paleontologists have also found fossils in rocks and other materials. Moreover, carbonization is a method of preserving fossils. The main importance of body fossils is to get an idea of the appearance of the organisms that lived in the past.

What is a Trace Fossil

A trace fossil is something made by organisms that lived in the past. The main importance of trace fossils is to get an idea of the movements, activities, and behavior of these organisms. There are three types of trace fossils. They are movement traces, predation traces, and digestive traces. Generally, the movement of animals within their habitats might leave footprints. Footprints give an idea about the size and shape of the animal. In comparison, predation traces or feeding traces give an idea of the types of ecological relationships between organisms in ancient times. For instance, holes in fossil shells are signs of predation.

Body Fossil vs Trace Fossil

Figure 2: Fossil Feces from a Carnivorous Dinosaur

Moreover, coprolites (fossil feces) are the digestive traces of animals of the past. They reveal the types of food organisms consume. For example, large Cretaceous coprolites are composed of fragments of dinosaur bone. Therefore, it suggests the excrement was from a large carnivorous dinosaur.  

Similarities Between Body Fossil and Trace Fossil

  • Body fossils and trace fossils are the two types of fossils of organisms.
  • They are evidence of prehistoric life that is older than 10,000 years.
  • Fossils tell how the earth has changed over the years.

Difference Between Body Fossil and Trace Fossil

Definition

Body fossil refers to plant and animal remains, such as leaves, teeth, and bones, while trace fossil refers to a fossil of a footprint, trail, burrow, or other traces of an animal rather than of the animal itself.

Examples

Examples of body fossils are skeletons, skin, leaves, wood, and bark while examples of trace fossils are footprints, predation traces, bodily wastes, burrows, eggs, and stromatolites.

Importance

Body fossils give an idea about the appearance of early life while trace fossils give an idea about the movements, activities, and behavior.

Conclusion

In brief, body fossils and trace fossils are the two types of fossils of animals, plants, and other microbial organisms. Body fossils are the remains of body parts of the organism such as the skeleton, skin, leaves, wood, and bark. The main importance of the body fossils is to get an idea about the appearance of the organisms that live in the past. In comparison, trace fossils are the things made by organisms; for example, footprints, predation traces, bodily wastes, burrows, and stromatolites. The main importance of trace fossils is to get an idea about the movements, activities, and behavior of organisms. Therefore, the main difference between body fossils and trace fossils is the type of remains of the organisms.

References:
  1. Fossil.” National Geographic Society,
Image Courtesy:
  1. Tyrannosaurus Rex Holotype” By ScottRobertAnselmo– Own work (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia
  2. Coprolite” By United States Geological Survey – Own Work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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