Modes of fossil preservation

Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology



The processes of geologic preservation are important for understanding the organisms represented by fossils. Some fossil differences are due to basic differences in organization of animals and plants, but the interpretation of fossils has also tended to be influenced by modes of preservation. Four modes of preservation generally can be distinguished: (1) Cellular permineralization (“petrifaction”) preserves anatomical detail, and, occasionally, even cytologic structures. (2) Coalified compression, best illustrated by structures from coal but characteristic of many plant fossils in shale, preserves anatomical details in distorted form and produces surface replicas (impressions) on enclosing matrix. (3) Authigenic preservation replicates surface form or outline (molds and casts) prior to distortion by compression and, depending on cementation and timing, may intergrade with fossils that have been subject to compression. (4) Duripartic (hard part) preservation is characteristic of fossil skeletal remains, predominantly animal. Molds, pseudomorphs, or casts may form as bulk replacements following dissolution of the original fossil material, usually by leaching. Classification of the kinds of preservation in fossils will aid in identifying the processes responsible for modifying the fossil remains of both animals and plants.

    Publication type Article
    Publication Subtype Journal Article
    Title Modes of fossil preservation
    Series title Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology
    DOI 10.1016/0034-6667(75)90005-6
    Volume 20
    Issue 1-2
    Year Published 1975
    Language English
    Publisher Elsevier
    Description 27 p.
    First page 27
    Last page 53
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