FOSSILS AND FOSSILIZATION

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1 EARTH AND ENVIRONMENT THROUGH TIME - EES 1005 LABORATORY SIX Introduction This week you will begin working on the fossil notebook. It will be due in 4 weeks and is worth 25% of your grade. This is an exciting and important part of the class because you have a chance to carefully look at various fossils on your own and learn more about them. You will be answering questions which may take some extra thought, so it is a good idea to do as much as possible during lab time when the instructor can help you. No late notebooks will be accepted. Please handle the specimens carefully. Inform your instructor if any of them are badly damaged, missing, or seem to be in the wrong box. The notebooks are to be handwritten and drawn only. FOSSILS AND FOSSILIZATION No photographs. Drawing is an important method of observation in the scientific process. You are required to use the sheets included in the Appendix of your lab manual. These sheets with your drawings and answers should be put in order into a folder and handed in on the due date specified by your instructor. This is the only format that will be accepted The fossil notebook is changed every semester, so you should be using the most current version. Do not use old copies. The notebook and answers contained within it should be yours and yours alone. Should the TA notice any discrepancies, a zero grade will be earned for that section of the notebook. Photograph taken by Jacqueline Wood, 2005 Photograph taken by Jacqueline Wood, 2005

2 Fossils are important in helping reconstruct the history of life on earth. A fossil is any reasonably obvious trace of pre-existing life. Usually fossils are old. Usually they are embedded in sedimentary rocks. Finally, they are usually not associated with humans. Paleontology is the study and interpretation of fossils. Fossils can be useful in several ways. Paleontologists use fossils to help determine ancient environments and the ages of rock beds. A fossil may be direct remains of a part of an organism, such as teeth, bones, or shells. In addition evidence of past life such as a footprint or a "gizzard stone" are known as trace fossils. When one considers the many factors that can destroy an organism after its death, it seems remarkable that so many fossils can be found. The process of fossilization is a rare occurrence. Chemical decomposition, erosion, Fossils Points to Ponder What is a fossil? Why are some life forms more conducive to fossilization? How does fossilization occur? What does the fossil record tell us? Does the fossil record accurately document the history of life? scavengers, and pressure and temperature changes are several processes that decrease the odds of fossilization occurring. The possession of hard parts, rapid deep burial, and protection from bacteria are conducive for fossilization. Most of the fossils used to interpret earth history are organisms whose hard part (shell, bone, ect.) have been preserved. Since the hard parts of most invertebrate organisms are composed of calcium carbonate, silica, or chitin, and since the bones of most vertebrates are composed primarily of calcium phosphate, alteration during transportation and burial is expected. The following sections outlie some of the various methods of preservation. Note that some fossils may be preserved by combinations of more than one type of preservation. The Fossil Record is Biased Because the fossilization process favors the preservation of marine animals with hard parts, the fossil record gives a biased view of the history of life on earth. Insects are one of the dominant living animal groups, however insects make up only about 1% of all the fossils. Even animals with hard parts are subjected to destruction. They may be broken by wind and wave action, attacked by scavengers, or turned to dust due to chemical weathering. This causes the fossil assemblage to reflect only a small portion of the original biosphere.

3 We will undertake our study of fossils from a biostratigraphic approach. We will look at the organisms beginning with the oldest ones and study their evolution. By knowing which fossils are likely to be found in certain stratigraphic age horizons, we will be able to use these fossils to reconstruct the history of the area in which it was found. The next few chapters are in chronological order. This appearance and extinction of different species in the fossil record are outlined as well as the relative abundance of each important marine organism. Methods of Preservation Preservation Methods 1. Unaltered remains (rare) Soft parts - entrapment of organisms in amber or oil seeps Hard parts - unaltered shells, bones, or teeth 2. Permineralization - Minerals deposited in pore spaces (such as in wood and bone) and may become permineralized: also called petrification. Skeletal material may be the original, replaced, or recrystallized. Common permineralization agents include calcium carbonate (CaCO 3 ), silica (SiO 2 ), pyrite (FeS 2 ), and dolomite (CaMg(CO 3 ) 2 ). 3. Recrystallization - Original material is recrystallized into a more stable form. No new material is added or taken away. This method of preservation is hard to identify. 4. Replacement - New material replaces the original skeleton; common replacement minerals includes calcite, quartz, and pyrite. Mold - skeletal hard part dissolved resulting in a hole in the rock. Internal molds preserve the internal structure. External molds preserve the external structure. Casts - new material fills in natural molds, forming a replica of the original skeleton. 5. Carbonization - Heat and pressure degrade original materials leaving a thin film of carbon in the shape of the organism, this can preserve fine details and soft parts. 6. Trace fossils - Any indirect evidence of an organism. Records behavior of organism. ex: tracks, trails, burrows, coprolites (fossilized feces), gastroliths (gizzard stones), may help show the size, living conditions, or eating habits of the organism. Trace fossils do not include the original organism, and are often difficult to connect to a particular species.

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5 Naming Organisms In science every creature is given two formal Latin or Latinized names - one designating the genus and the other, the species. Species are grouped together in a genus by shared similarities. Those classifications most useful in evolutionary studies also reflect evolutionary relationships and descent from a common ancestor. Classifications are based on the presence of homologous features (having the same relative position, proportion, value, or structure due to inheritance). Features which are merely similar are known as analogous, resulting from convergent evolution. Analogous features may be similar due to similar function or ecological adaptations, not from a common ancestor. Symmetry type is one of the more useful characteristics in grouping organisms, so be sure to note the symmetry as well as other distinguishing features of the study samples. We will only be as specific as the class name for most of the fossils we study. All of the earliest organisms were marine (salt-water) dwelling. Non-marine organisms are ones that live in freshwater or on land. In the Animal Kingdom, the only phyla to make the transition from marine to non-marine were Mollusca, Arthropoda, and Chordata. The table on the next page outlines some of the major changes in non-marine life through geologic time.

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7 The following is a list of major fossils groups and their age ranges (when the organism evolved, followed by the geologic time period that the organism Fossil Age Ranges went extinct). Note that geologic ages represent when each group formed a noticeable part of the fossil record.

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