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Abstract

Trace fossils are very peculiar things. More often than not, the greatest difficulty in dealing with them is simply recognizing that they are trace fossils in the first place! Many a spirited argument has arisen on the outcrop between geologists who take opposing views on the biogenic vs. non-biogenic origin of a particular structure in the rock, and a good share of these arguments go unresolved because of either poor preservation of the structure or lack of clear criteria for distinction between alternative solutions.

We cannot do much about the preservation state, although there are some ways by which we can enhance the visibility of a structure or its component features (see Chapter 4, this volume). We also can seek to develop objective criteria to help us distinguish between biogenic structures and primary (mainly physical) or secondary (mainly chemical) non-biogenic structures. The pitfalls of recognition and identification are many, however, so workers always must proceed with caution and keep their minds open.

If presented with a problematic structure, some criteria which may lead one to consider a biogenic origin include the following items (Table III-1). Be sure to note that the occurrence of one or more of these features may not assure a stamp of certainty on the identification, but at least its (their) occurrence may assist in offering an intelligent guess.

(1) Obvious resemblance of the structure in question to the body form or a body part of an organism. Footprints are a good example of this, because the

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