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Abstract

Paleontological resources (fossils) are the remains of life preserved in a geologic context. Fossils may consist of the physical remains of a biological organism such as a tooth, bone, shell, leaf, cone, seed, or wood. Evidence of biological activity may sometimes be preserved in rocks, hence tracks, traces, burrows, coprolites (fossil dung and feces), and nests represent other valuable types of paleontological resources.

The fossil record reveals an extremely rich diversity of ancient organisms preserved in the Earth's strata (layers of rock). The fossil record of life on Earth spans nearly every period of geologic history from Precambrian bacteria, billions of years old, to more recent Pleistocene or Holocene cave fossils dating back only a few thousand years. Together, fossils from around the world yield significant scientific and educational information regarding the history of life on Earth.

From the moment of death for an organism, a wide array of agents and forces work toward the breakdown and destruction of its physical remains. Raup and Stanley (1978) identify and describe biological, chemical, and mechanical variables associated with the destruction of biological remains. Only a very small percentage of all living organisms become part of the fossil record, and of those, an even smaller percentage have been discovered, collected and studied. The preservation of fossils and the associated biases in the fossil record are directly attributable to the organism's morphologic composition, rate of post-mortem burial, environment of deposition, diagenetic variables, tapho-nomic (after death) factors, and the post-depositional geologic history of

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