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Fern fossil: Pecopteris oriopteridia

Fossils are the preserved remains of plants and animals from prehistoric times – a natural record of the ancestors of life on Earth today. People have been finding fossils in rocks for thousands of years and the clues they left behind have helped scientists understand how the Earth, and the creatures and plants that live on it today, evolved. From the tall, Jurassic cliffs at Saltburn, to the shingle bank at Redcar the North East is a rich site for finding fossil specimens.

Fern fossil: Pecopteris oriopteridia, Carboniferous era

This large fossil is of a fern – a very ancient family of plants. It is over 300 million years old and was found in County Durham. It comes from the carboniferous age, a time when many parts of the Earth were covered in vast swampy forests. These swamps produced the coal that we are still mining and using today for power and heat.

Image courtesy of Middlesbrough Museums Service