LOADING ...

























INANIMATE WITNESSES OF LIFE:FOSSILS
2001 /APRIL
As a child I used to go exploring in the mountains with my friends. So that my mother did not realise how far we were roaming, we did not take any bread with us, but made do with wild plants for our provisions, such as silifa shoots and salsify roots, which not only satisfied our hunger but kept us healthy. On one of these expeditions a strange shape in a rock caught my eye. It looked like a sea shell, but was made of stone. For hours we stayed there trying to work out what it could be. As a fervent reader of Jules Verne, I tried to take a scientific approach to our discovery. Perhaps this rock had at one time been in the sea? But then how did it find its way up here into the mountains? My friends made fun of me, saying that God had petrified people who rebelled against him, and must have done the same to this animal. Ignoring this theory, I went to the public library and discovered that what we had found was a fossil. However, this did not help to explain what a sea shell had been doing on a mountain.
When later I became a geologist, I was approached on countless occasions ...
Page 1/5


































INANIMATE WITNESSES OF LIFE:FOSSILS
2001 /APRIL
during field studies by people with tree fossils, asking me to explain how a tree had turned to stone. Every time I patiently explain until the person understands.
The first living creatures to appear on earth, whose estimated age is approximately 4.6 billion years, were single cell organisms. Later primitive multi-cell organisms began to evolve, and when at the beginning of the Palaeozoic Era, 570 million years ago, the oxygen level of the atmosphere began to increase, life on earth began to multiply at an unprecedented pace. From that time up to the present, new living creatures have evolved and others become extinct for diverse reasons. The first fish began to appear 438 million years ago, and 360 million years ago the first land animals evolved. The dinosaurs which appeared during the Triassic Period 245 million years ago ruled the earth for no less than 180 million years. Mammals only appeared 23 million years ago, and the most destructive of them all, man, evolved during the Pleistocene Period.
Page 2/5


































INANIMATE WITNESSES OF LIFE:FOSSILS
2001 /APRIL
Now let us return to fossils. When the bodies of animals are buried under sediment of some kind, in time they become fossilised. The reason why the great majority of fossils belong to marine creatures is because the sea often provides perfect conditions for fossilisation. The hard parts of dead creatures sink to the sea bed, where they are buried in sediment, which over millions of years is transformed into rock. Over a long period of time tectonic movement in the eath'se crust lifts this rock up to the surface. That is why marine fossils are to be found in high mountains such as the Toros and Himalayas.

The first living creatures to appear on earth, whose estimated age is approximately 4.6 billion years, were single cell organisms. Later primitive multi-cell organisms began to evolve, and when at the beginning of the Palaeozoic Era, 570 million years ago, the oxygen level of the atmosphere began to increase, life on earth began to multiply at an unprecedented pace.
Page 3/5


































INANIMATE WITNESSES OF LIFE:FOSSILS
2001 /APRIL
From that time up to the present, new living creatures have evolved and others become extinct for diverse reasons. The first fish began to appear 438 million years ago, and 360 million years ago the first land animals evolved. The dinosaurs which appeared during the Triassic Period 245 million years ago ruled the earth for no less than 180 million years. Mammals only appeared 23 million years ago, and the most destructive of them all, man, evolved during the Pleistocene Period.
Not all fossils can be seen clearly with the naked eye. Tiny plankton, if not eaten by other creatures, sank to the sea bed when they died and eventually become part of the rock. These enable geologists to calculate the age of sedimentary rock. A sample cut from such rock in a laboratory is glued to a piece of glass and then cut down further to a fine slither 0.03 mm thick. This is then examined under a microscope. Foraminifera are the most common of such micro-fossils, their average size being comparable to a pin head.
Page 4/5


































INANIMATE WITNESSES OF LIFE:FOSSILS
2001 /APRIL

Each of these minute animals belongs to a particular era, which is why they are invaluable for dating rock.
Fossils are the lifeless witnesses of their time. Thanks to them we can find out about the climate, biological diversity, and tectonic movements at the period when the rock was formed. In particular, their contribution to oil exploration is enormous.
So when you come across a fossilised sea shell, you are touching a creature that lived at least several million years ago. You realise that human beings are mere newcomers to this world of ours in terms of geological time, yet no other creature has caused such damage to the blue planet which is our home. Although natural causes have brought about the extinction of so many species, human beings must be the only one capable of exterminating themselves. Remembering this, we may make a greater effort to protect our world.

* Yildirim Gungor is a geologist

Page 5/5


































Previous Next