In order to tap into your scientific detective skills and encourage your creativity, we are excited to share with you the Prehistoric Life of the National Parks coloring book. The main coloring book features 40 simple line drawings of ancient animals and plants known from fossils discovered in national parks. An additional 10 bonus “web exclusive” drawings are available only by visiting this website.
One of the fun and interesting aspects of studying fossils, known as the science of paleontology, is trying to figure out what these prehistoric animals and plants looked like when they were alive! Typically, the soft parts of ancient organisms, features such as the skin, feathers, or hair, are not preserved or fossilized. Therefore, we may not have good evidence available for determining the color or surface patterns of prehistoric life forms. Modern organisms show a wonderful diversity of coloration and external patterns, which may be considered when thinking about these features in prehistoric life. Can such patterns as stripes, spots, and other ornamentation seen today in mammals, birds, insects, and even plants, provide us clues to similar patterns seen in past organisms?
With each drawing you are able to work as a paleoartist, an artist specializing in reconstructing ancient life and the environments in which these organisms lived. The work of paleoartists can be found in museum exhibits, illustrations in books and magazines, captured on websites, and even featured in motion pictures and cartoons. The illustrations used in the Prehistoric Life of the National Parks were designed as simple drawings, to provide more opportunity for you (the paleoartist) to be creative in your work to bring these extinct life forms back to life. Good luck and have fun!
Available for Download
Prehistoric Life in the National Parks Coloring Book
- National Park Service, 2020 (58 pp.)—[PDF download—IRMA Portal]
Note: All of the individual drawing pages are also available in image galleries within the "Fossils Through Geologic Time" articles linked below.
Share Your Artwork #npspaleo
We hope you enjoy the book, and we would love to see your artwork! Share with us: #npspaleo #nationalfossilday
Fossils Through Geologic Time
Additional information about the major time periods in Earth's history and individual coloring book pages are featured in the articles below.
- Dinosaurs!—Prehistoric Life in National Parks & NNLs Coloring Pages
- NNL Prehistoric Life Coloring Pages
Programs and Partners
Coloring Book Credits
The Prehistoric Life in the National Parks Coloring Book is a collaborative project between the National Park Service (NPS) Paleontology Program and the American Geosciences Institute (AGI). The NPS and AGI share a vision and are committed to inspire children, of all ages, to embrace science and stewardship through their interests in dinosaurs and other prehistoric life.
- Content, Design, and Layout: Vincent L. Santucci, J.P. Hodnett, Justin Tweet, and Alison Mims
- Artwork: Studio 105 and Benji Paysnoe
- Technical Review: Arvid Aase, Robert Blodgett, Diana Boudreau, Geoffrey Camphire, Ronnie Colvin, Tim Connors, Bill DiMichele, Pat Druckenmiller, Nick Famoso, Scott Foss, Stephen Godfrey, Rebecca Hunt-Foster, Adam Marsh, Jim Mead, Herb Meyer, Bill Parker, Kari Prassack, Roy Plotnick, Don Prothero, Ed Robeck, Mariah Slovacek, Christy Visaggi, Ed Welsh, and Jeff Wolin.
- Website Development: Jim Wood
First Edition—July 15, 2020
The Prehistoric Life in the National Parks Coloring Book is dedicated to Georgia Hybels, a National Park Service geographer who shared her time to foster children’s interests in fossils, caves and national parks.
Fossils Through Geologic Time
Last updated: October 12, 2021