Important Paleontologists: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Paleontologists are scientists who study more than just fossils. In this lesson, learn what paleontologists do, find about specific paleontologists, and discover how their studies influenced ideas about evolution.

Who Are Paleontologists?

Watch out! Here comes a T. rex! And there's an enormous Brontosaurus! Do you like learning about dinosaurs and fossils? Then you might want to become a paleontologist. These are scientists who study the remains of humans, animals, and plants to learn more about living things from hundreds and thousands of years ago.

They are often especially interested in how plants and animals have changed over time, and many of their discoveries helped to form the idea of evolution. This is where plants and animals have developed and changed over time, by adapting from earlier forms. Let's learn about some famous paleontologists who made big discoveries about the history of life.

Mary Anning

Mary Anning was a paleontologist born in the late 1700s in Britain, who learned about fossils from her father. A fossil is the remains of a prehistoric animal or plant that is contained and preserved over time. Fossils allow for scientists to study life forms from many years ago, and see how they were different from life today.

Mary Anning learned about collecting fossils from her father.
Mary Anning

Her father collected fossils to sell to help support their family, and he encouraged his daughter to collect them as well. But for Mary, fossil collecting turned into more than just a way to make money. She continued studying these remains as an adult, and later helped to discover the first fossils of a plesiosaur, which was a marine reptile from millions of years ago. The fossils of this animal showed how living things could change over time and were evidence of evolution.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin is often considered the leading scientist associated with evolution. He worked for many years traveling all over the world, looking at animals and plants. His idea was that living things change because they have to in order to survive. Plants and animals that don't change often become extinct. He wrote a famous book about evolution that is still used by scientists today.

Charles Darwin developed ideas about evolution based on plant and animal evidence.
Charles Darwin

Gideon Mantell

Someone else that helped make discoveries to support the ideas of Darwin was a man named Gideon Mantell, a doctor in England in the 1800s. He loved the area of science known as geology, which is the study of rocks and processes in the Earth. Like Mary, he also looked for fossils. He and his wife are believed to have discovered fossilized teeth that had once belonged to a prehistoric reptile that ate only plants.

Gideon Mantell loved finding fossils and studying geology.
Gideon Mantell

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