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Living Fossils

What is a living fossil?

Wait, isn’t a fossil something scientists find in the ground?

Sometimes a fossil is something scientists find in the ground. These special scientists are called paleontologists.  Their job is to look for clues about prehistoric life by examining fossils.

The word fossil refers to something that has been buried and compressed (or pounded down) by tons of sediment for at least 10,000 years.  During shifts in the Earth’s crust, these fossils are exposed and rediscovered.

There are also living fossils.  Living fossils are plants and animals that exist today, but look almost exactly like they did in prehistoric times.  Many living fossils were even pronounced extinct at one time!

Here at Maine Discovery Museum, we have two living fossils that you can investigate.  The first are turtles and the second are cockroaches.  Both of these have been around for millions of years and still look very much like they did in prehistoric times.

Some living fossils are still to be discovered.  You could be the one to discover new, old living fossils!  In 2007, a rare living fossil called the frilled shark was seen by a fisherman in Japan.  Up until then, scientists believed the frilled shark had been extinct for millions of years.

For the video report about that living fossil click here:

For more information about the frilled shark, check out the resources at

The Maine Discovery Museum is loaded with kid's activities! Looking for things to do with children? The Maine Discovery Museum is a great place to find things to do with kids of all ages!