living fossil


: an organism (such as a horseshoe crab or a ginkgo tree) that has remained essentially unchanged from earlier geologic times and whose close relatives are usually extinct

Examples of living fossil in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web These fish are even sometimes referred to as living fossils because their appearance has changed so little over time. Maggie Horton, Country Living, 1 Aug. 2023 Published today in Paleontology, a new study seeks to settle the old debate over the whole living fossil thing. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, 23 Feb. 2017 Although the eel doesn’t have a fossil record to go by, the research team considers P. palau a living fossil, a name given to species that remain relatively unchanged after surviving for millions of years. Joseph Castro, Discover Magazine, 17 Aug. 2011 Today’s Vampyroteuthis has sometimes been called a living fossil, the assumption being that these cephalopods found a cozy home in deep, oxygen-poor waters and stayed there in a cozy niche, eating detritus that falls from above, since the Jurassic. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Aug. 2022 Coelacanths tend to live in the same areas where the fishermen try to snag sharks with gill-nets and often snag the living fossil fish in the process. Mike Wehner, BGR, 21 May 2021 The past few years have been exciting times for companies like Ginkgo (named after a dinosaur-era tree that’s a living fossil) that work in the emerging field of synthetic biology. Amy Feldman, Forbes, 11 May 2021 The Ginkgo tree is a living fossil, with the earliest leaf fossils dating from 270 million years ago. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, 23 Oct. 2020 The tour passes by some living fossils — a Wollemi pine from Australia and a dawn redwood, which is an example of a tree that was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1941. Carl Nolte,, 2 May 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'living fossil.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1859, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of living fossil was in 1859

Dictionary Entries Near living fossil

Cite this Entry

“Living fossil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

living fossil

: an animal or plant (as the horseshoe crab or the ginkgo tree) that has remained almost unchanged from earlier geologic times and whose close relatives are usually all extinct
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