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Fossils, Fossil Fuels and Energy Resources Study
Fossils are the remains or impressions of plants or animals that lived long ago,
such as mineralized bones, shells, footprints, or leaf prints.
A plant or animal that no longer exists anywhere on the Earth is called extinct.
Scientists learn about extinct animals by observing and comparing fossils.
Paleontologists are scientists who study species that lived in the past.
Scientists around the world who share ways of thinking are called the scientific
Trilobites were hard-shelled arthropods with multiple body segments and jointed
legs. Trilobites lived in oceans all around the world, but are now extinct.
Fossil shark teeth were found in the same places as fossils of Trilobite 2, and
scientists have discovered that they lived at the same time. No shark teeth have
been found from the same time and place as Trilobite 1.
What could you infer about these observations?
Trilobite 1
Trilobite 2
When sharks began to live in the oceans, they ate trilobites,
so trilobite species that had or developed spines were better adapted for
survival. Trilobite species without spines were reduced in numbers or died out
When trilobite fossils are found with other fossils, scientists can use the known
trilobite to identify the age of the other fossils.
Coal, oil, and natural gas are called fossil fuels. Oil is also called petroleum.
Oil comes from microscopic plants and animals in the ocean that died millions of
years ago.
(o-o-o oil-ocean-organisms)
Coal comes from fossil remains of giant ferns and trees that lived millions of
years ago.
(la-la-la coal-land-plants)
Coal, oil, and natural gas are made from four main ingredients:
dead plants and animals that are covered with many layers of sediment
lots of pressure from the weight of many layers of sediment
lots of heat from all the layers of sediment
millions of years of time
The energy in fossil fuels originally came from the Sun. Plants use the energy in
sunlight to make their own food. The energy in plants passes to the animals that
eat the plants. Some energy remains in plants and animals that die and become
fossil fuels. Burning the fossil fuels releases the energy for humans to use. This
energy heats our homes, generates electricity, and powers our cars.
Burning of fuels creates air pollution, which can cause acid rain and health
problems such as lung disease. Burning fossil fuels for energy also releases
large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which many scientists
believe may be contributing to global warming.
Most of the rocks that form layers at Earth’s surface are sedimentary rocks.
A sedimentary rock is made of bits of other rocks called sediments. Sediments
form layers at the bottoms of valleys and seas.
The oldest rock layers are at the bottom, and the youngest rock layers are at the
top. Compaction happens when sediments are packed tightly together.
Cementation binds the sediments together to form a rock.
Fossils are usually found in sedimentary rock layers.
Alternative energy sources are any sources of energy that are not from fossil
A nonrenewable resource is any natural resource from the Earth that exists in
limited supply and cannot be replaced if it is used up. Oil, natural gas, coal, and
uranium are nonrenewable energy resources. We use them up faster than they
can be made by nature.
Nuclear energy is energy in the nucleus (core) of an atom. The most common
fissionable atom is uranium-235, which is the fuel used in most types of nuclear
reactors today. Nuclear energy is nonrenewable because there is a limited
supply of uranium in the Earth.
A renewable resource is any natural resource that can replenish itself naturally
over time. Solar, wind, water, geothermal, and biomass are renewable energy
Solar energy is energy from the sun in the form of radiation. A solar cell can
convert sunlight into electrical energy, and is typically made of layers or sheets of
silicon. A dark-colored solar panel will absorb more radiation than a lighter color.
Windmills change the wind’s energy into power (mechanical energy). The power
is used to grind grain, pump water, produce electricity, and do many other jobs. A
wind turbine is a streamlined windmill that produces electricity. Groups of larger
wind turbines are called wind farms.
Biofuels are obtained from organic materials (biomass), such as wood and
agricultural crops. They can be burned directly or processed into fuels such as
ethanol and methane.
Geothermal energy is a form of energy obtained from the Earth's internal heat,
usually near volcanoes or other hot spots on the surface of the Earth. The Earth
can heat water until produces steam. The steam can be used to turn turbines of
generators to produce electricity.
Hydroelectric energy is power that is derived from the force of moving water,
such as rivers or ocean tides. The moving water can be used to turn turbines of
generators to produce electricity.
Advantages of Alternative Energy: Alternative energy sources are a lot
cleaner for the environment and are renewable. We will never run out of them.
Disadvantages of Alternative Energy: Energy from alternative resources is
more expensive than using fossil fuels. Some alternative energy sources can
only be used in certain places (windy areas for wind turbines, sunny places for
solar panels, “hot spots” for geothermal, rivers or oceans for hydroelectric).