Fossils Side-by-Side With Living Animals

See these fossils come to life

By Google Arts & Culture

Teleosts related to bony-tongued fishes (skeletons) Teleosts related to bony-tongued fishes (skeletons)Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Although the term "fossils" may often conjure up images of long-extinct dinosaurs, we also have a fossil record of species which are still alive today. From bugs to giant tortoises, scroll to see preserved bones side-by-side with the real animal!

Fossil birdSenckenberg Nature Museum Frankfurt

This magnificently preserved fossil of an ancient bird is approximately 45 million years old, but it still bears a striking resemblance to the birds we see today. This specimen, reminiscent of a swift, is on display at Senckenberg Nature Museum in Frankfurt, Germany.

Natural History (1852)LIFE Photo Collection

Though this bird is labeled as a chimney swallow, it is actually a chimney swift--a common misconception in the era after its discovery. This 19th-century illustration appears courtesy of the LIFE Photo Collection.

Barnum Brown at work on land tortoise fossil, Hall of Vertebrate Origins, 1930 by Dutcher, IrvingAmerican Museum of Natural History

Modern tortoises can get pretty big, but this prehistoric behemoth belongs to the species Megalochelys atlas, the largest known tortoises to ever walk the Earth. This photograph shows American paleontologist Barnum Brown at work on the skeleton.

By Alfred EisenstaedtLIFE Photo Collection

The Galápagos giant tortoise is a similar shelled reptile, as seen in this 1958 photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt. Today, many species of the magnificent tortoises are endangered or even extinct, so conservation efforts are critical.

You can examine the prehistoric remains at the American Museum of Natural History. Click to explore using Street View.

Bat Fossil Skeleton Icaronycteris indexRoyal Ontario Museum

Various species of bats have lived on Earth for at least 50 million years. Icaronycteris is one of the earliest known types of bat, with many features similar to bats of today. It was discovered in Wyoming, USA and now resides at the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada.

Plant trees and stop disease emergence (2018) by Peter J. Hudson FRSThe Royal Society

Bats still play a vital role in ecosystems all around the world. Aside from eating pests like mosquitoes, the nocturnal creatures are prolific pollinators of plants. Peter J. Hudson captured this mind-blowing image in 2018.

Fossilized ScorpionMuseu Nacional

This fossilized scorpion has been encased in limestone for approximately 110 million years! It was discovered at the Chapada do Araripe, a mountainous plateau in Brazil, alongside other creatures from the Cretaceous Period.

By Peter StackpoleLIFE Photo Collection

Scorpions have remained remarkably unchanged by evolution in the time since. This stripe-tailed scorpion, like most other scorpions, preys on mostly small insects and its venom isn't considered a major threat to humans. Peter Stackpole snapped this photo in 1948.

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