Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Charlie. Charlie Wonders, “What do you have to do to become a paleontologist?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Charlie!

Do dinosaurs fascinate you? We love dinosaurs here in Wonderopolis! Wouldn’t it have been cool to live in the time of the dinosaurs?

What do you think life was like back then? Can you imagine having a picnic under a large tree while a pterodactyl flies overhead? Or playing a game of soccer as a tyrannosaurus runs across the field?

What do you think the dinosaurs looked like? Do you ever WONDER what they sounded like? How did their skin feel? Did they play? Were they friendly? How big were they? Why did they become extinct?

Do these questions interest you? If so, you might have a future in paleontology. Paleontologists study the history of life on Earth. They often focus on organisms that lived long, long ago.

Many people link paleontologists closely to dinosaurs. If you think about it, that makes sense. Most of what we know about the giant reptiles came from paleontologists. However, they study much more than dinosaurs.

Most paleontologists study all sorts of life forms. That includes plants and even single-cell organisms. Much of their work centers on finding the fossilized remains of many forms of life.

What is it like to work as a paleontologist? Many of them do a lot of fieldwork. That means they go out and dig for fossils. You may have seen pictures or museum exhibits about paleontologists on a “dig” out in the field. Paleontologists also do research and experiments. They also often write about what they find. 

Paleontologists go to sites all over the world. In fact, you’ll find paleontologists pretty much anywhere that fossils can be found. Paleontologists work hard to find fossils and dig them up. Then, they take them back to a laboratory. There, they clean, study, and store the fossils. That’s when they learn what they found. What they thought was a new species could be a fossil of an animal that has already been identified. It’s very exciting to find fossils from species that no one has ever seen before.

What do paleontologists do when they find fossils from new species? They start with more research to make educated guesses about what the plant or animal might have looked like. Many of the images of dinosaurs we have come from paleontologists who have done this research. 

Sometimes these images change over time. As paleontologists find more fossils, they could change their idea of what the dinosaur looked like. For example, finding more bones from a particular dinosaur might change the idea of what the animal looked like. New fossils have even made experts believe that many dinosaurs had feathers. 

Would you like to be a paleontologist one day? Many paleontologists travel the world looking for new fossils. However, they need to have a lot of patience. Sometimes, they may not find new fossils for months or even years! Paleontologists also need a strong interest in science. They need to be curious about the world. If that sounds like you, get to digging! You never know what you may find.

Standards: NGSS.LS4.A, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.4

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