Condensed Lecture Notes
Terms below that are printed in
are meant to catch your attention.
The quiz will be a mixture
of very easy, to a few quite challenging questions. The more difficult questions will ask you to take
something you already know and put the pieces of information together to come up with a conclusion.
I have tried to keep these notes to approximately one page per lecture, for efficient study.
is the “History of Geologic Thought” lecture, for which there are two pages because that one included a
good deal of material not in the textbook. Minor details, such as the years certain people lived, are there
for your information only, and will not be on the test (although it may behoove you to know, in general,
what order they came in).
LECTURE 10: FOSSILIZATION AND EARLY METAZOANS
(which means “dug up”) is any sign of previous life preserved in rocks, whether a remnant of an
organism itself or some record of its activity.
We can divide fossils into two broad categories:
fossils, the remains of an organism, and
fossils, something else the organism left behind.
fossils include footprints (such as the dinosaur footprints on display outside the Texas Memorial
Museum), burrows, coprolites (“dung stones”), glauconite (green mica sand from fecal pellets of marine
organisms) and gastroliths (stones kept in the stomach to help with digestion or to serve as ballast).
fossils are rare.
Famous examples include insects in amber (i.e. the mosquitos that
supposedly preserved dinosaur blood Jurassic Park) and entire mastodons caught in tar pits or frozen
into the tundra.
More common body fossils are hard parts like bone, teeth, or shell, which have
, in which the natural pores are filled with minerals by percolating water.
Fossils also may undergo wholesale
, in which the hard material is replaced atom-by-atom
by minerals in fluids.
Bone and shell are often to some extent replaced, and the older they are, the more
likely it is that there have been one or more episodes of replacement. Replacement can also result in
preservation of less durable materials, such as in the creation of petrified wood.
Another way to
preserve soft material is by flattening it between layers of sediment.
If a carbon-rich film remains, we
call such a fossil a
If all that’s left is an imprint of its form, we call it an
In another version of replacement the organism entirely dissolves away while the surrounding matrix
remains intact, leaving a
, or void in the rock in the shape of the organism (or more likely its shell).
Later fluids can fill the void with another mineral, creating a
A special type of cast, in which the
shell of a gastropod is lost but the sediment filling in the shell is preserved, is called a
The fossil record is very biased – but that’s not a bad thing, just something we need to keep in mind.