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Would you like to spend all day thinking about dinosaurs? Well, some scientists do! Find out all about what it means to be a paleontologist!
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SOURCES:
Dino: Rawr!

Jessi: Oh hey guys, we're just practicing our best dinosaur rawrs. If you've met my friend Dino before, then you probably know he's crazy about dinosaurs. He loves going to museums to see their bones, reading books about them, and even pretending to be them. Wouldn't it be cool if you could spend all day thinking about dinosaurs? Trying to figure out things like what did they look like or what did they eat and do they like to play, too? For some people their job is exactly that, but this special group of scientists doesn't just study dinosaurs, they learn about all kinds of things that lived a really long time ago, including reptiles, mammals, plants, and even teeny tiny bacteria. These scientists are called paleontologists.

(SciShow Kids intro plays)

now you probably noticed that the kinds of dinosaurs that you see in museums aren't alive anymore. I mean, you don't have to worry about bumping into T-rex at the grocery store. That's because they're extinct. They died out millions of years ago. So, for paleontologists to do their job, they have to look for clues that dinosaurs and other extinct animals left behind.

Luckily, they left us plenty of clues: their fossils. Fossils are the remains of animals and plants from long ago that slowly became preserved in rocks. Fossils can be of animals' bones, teeth, and shells, or the imprints of old leaves. Or they can be rocks that hold other clues to what life was like in the past, like an animal's footprint or even their fossilized poop.

Paleontologists use all of these kinds of fossils to find out more about the history of life on Earth. For example, they've learned about extinct trees and flowers that lived millions of years ago. They've found bones of some of the earliest known mammals. And, of course, if it weren't for fossils, we wouldn't even know dinosaurs existed.

Paleontologists have been able to make all of these discoveries because they're experts at reading the clues they find in fossils. If scientists find enough bones belonging to a extinct animal, like a dinosaur, they can put them together to figure out what that animal looked like. And if they find the dinosaur's teeth, they can figure out whether it ate plants or other animals or both.

Just knowing where a fossil is buried can give scientists a lot of information, too. For example, it paleontologists come across a layer of rock with a lot of the same type of dinosaur fossils in it, that might mean that that kind of dinosaur lived in big groups.

But before paleontologists can study fossils, they have to find them first, and that means that these scientists get to spend lots of time outside digging in the dirt. First, they go to areas where they think fossils might have formed and start exploring. They keep their eyes open for small bits of bone sticking out of the ground, or rocks with cool shapes on them. riverbeds and hillsides are especially good places to look. Once they find a promising spot, it's time to get digging.

Paleontologists use picks, shovels, even big diggers to unearth their finds. If they uncover a fossil, then they take it back to their laboratory to study it. There, they can use cool technology like X-ray machines and CT scanners to see inside the fossil, and they can use computers to see what the plants and animals may have looked like when they were alive.

And finally, paleontologists spend a lot of time sharing their discoveries with other people. Lots of paleontologists work with museums and schools so that they can teach people like you and me about fossils that they find. And the fossils are usually kept in museums or universities, so other scientists can study them, too.

All told, digging in the dirt and dreaming of dinosaurs may look like fun, but paleontologists have a really important job. Together, they're working to solve a huge puzzle: a puzzle of life on planet Earth. Every new fossil is another piece of the puzzle, helping us to understand how plants, animals, and the Earth itself have changed over time. And you know what? Many paleontologists say they got into their special kind of science because when they were kids, they loved dinosaurs just like we do.

Dino: Yeah!

Jessi: So keep dreaming and practicing your best dino rawr, and one day it could be your job, too. And if you'd like us to dig up some more information about... anything, just let us know by leaving a comment or emailing us at kids@thescishow.com. Thanks for joining us on SciShow Kids and we'll see you next time.

Dino: See you later!