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Experimental taphonomy

Derek E. G. Briggs
Experimental taphonomy
Palaios (December 1995) 10 (6): 539-550


Recent developments in taphonomic experimentation are reviewed, with an emphasis on investigations of the role of decay in the fossilization of invertebrates. Documentation of the stages through which an organism decays provides an important basis for the interpretation of soft-bodied fossils, particularly problematica such as conodonts and Ediacaran taxa. Experiments allow the factors controlling decay to be determined. The relative preservation potential of different tissue types and of different taxa can be assessed. A number of processes critical to fossilization operate on a laboratory time scale. The impact of decay on the susceptibility of skeletons to disarticulation, dissolution and disintegration can be investigated. Soft-tissues can be replicated by minerals in experiments, providing a more reliable indication of the conditions and time required for this type of preservation than we can obtain from investigations of fossils and their occurrence. Laboratory simulations have demonstrated the important role of dehydration in promoting the exceptional preservation of soft tissues in amber. Decay experiments are also important in determining why organic compounds survive to be preserved as fossil biomolecules. Differential decay is just one source of bias in fossil assemblages. Another, transport dynamics, has been investigated by quantifying settling and entrainment velocities, and drag/lift coefficients (of trilobite sclerites, brachiopod valves and conodont elements, for example). Rates of bioerosion have also been recorded in experiments. The development of more sophisticated techniques for monitoring and analyzing the results of experiments will ensure that such approaches continue to be a powerful tool in interpreting taphonomic processes.

ISSN: 0883-1351
Serial Title: Palaios
Serial Volume: 10
Serial Issue: 6
Title: Experimental taphonomy
Author(s): Briggs, Derek E. G.
Affiliation: University of Bristol, Department of Geology, Bristol, United Kingdom
Pages: 539-550
Published: 199512
Text Language: English
Publisher: Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, Tulsa, OK, United States
References: 96
Accession Number: 1996-080370
Categories: General paleontology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: 1 plate
Source Note: Tenth anniversary theme issue
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data supplied by SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology), Tulsa, OK, United States
Update Code: 199624
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