As an undergraduate and then as a graduate student, I repeatedly came across in the paleontological literature what I considered to be the “paleontological mantra”—quick and rapid burial ensured that an organism might be preserved in the fossil record. I kept looking for tests of this “observation” but found little to appease my curiosity about this mysterious, yet profound process. As a graduate student, I buried shells with epibionts below the anoxic zone in a mudflat to examine the selective preservation of encrusting organisms that associated with hermit crab-inhabited shells. Additionally, I avidly read about descriptive analyses of taphonomic degradation...

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