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Fossils Q & A

Fossils - Q and A

Under what conditions are they formed?

In order for a fossil to form, the remains of the animal or plant material needs to be rapidly buried. Without rapid burial they would be attacked by bacteria and rot away or simply be eroded by the wind and rain.

Where do the conditions arise?

Most fossils are found in or near to water because the water deposits sediments that rapidly cover the remains. However, fossils can also be found away from water because volcanic eruptions and mudslides are another effective way of rapidly burying the remains. It must also be remembered that the tops of most mountains were once down at sea level.

How are they preserved?

Generally, the structure of the material being fossilized remains the same but it is altered at the molecular level. Much harder minerals passing through the sediments and soils selectively replace those in the subject. In some fossils only the harder elements are preserved because the softer materials are leached away and replaced with sediment. This in effect creates a cast of the subject. In other fossils full mineralisation takes place and we are left with a stony replica of the subject.

What are the timescales?

Fossils that eventually become exposed could well have been created millions of years ago. It is generally accepted that if a subject has been fully fossilized then it is at least 50,000 years old and carbon dating is not possible. Dating of fossils is a difficult task and requires the skills and expertise of anthropologists to make a best guess by researching the surrounding area. There is a view expressed in biblical terms. This follows the line that most fossils were created at the time of the great flood, since this is a period when the condition for fossil formation would have been optimized.

How do they survive?

The fossils survive because the minerals used in their formation are generally much harder than the surrounding materials. This allows them to withstand the pressures surrounding them.

How are they found?

As we know, the earth around us is constantly on the move. Erosion is constantly taking place and new mudslides earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur frequently. Due to these actions fossils created much earlier in the earth's history become exposed once again. Left alone they are open once again to the forces of erosion.

Where are they found?

Fossils are found all over the world, sometimes thousands of miles from where they were first created. They can be seen exposed in cliff faces or on off shore rock formations. Shifting sands under the sea can expose them and sometimes bring pieces onto the shore. Erosion at the sides of rivers and farmers preparing new ground are places of exposure

Fossils Q & A