Fossils of an ancient animal don’t typically include much more than the creature’s hard parts — sometimes intact, but often shattered to smithereens. Lucky paleontologists may stumble upon a well-preserved, nearly complete skeleton that offers a rough idea of an animal’s size and shape. But fossils that preserve soft tissues — skin, flesh, feathers — are the rarest of the rare. These geological treasures form and survive only under special environmental conditions that scientists are just now beginning to understand.
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