Talk:Fossil

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Exceptional Sites[edit]

Surely the Jurassic Coast should get a mention?! :-) —Preceding unsigned comment added by 81.159.118.2 (talk) 00:48, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Geologic Timescale[edit]

We might also want to consider having a "Fossil record" page, talking about how geology and fossils interact to give us a timeline, and move the timeline to that page -- or even another one. The evolution of life on earth is deserving of its own page, with links from fossils and other places.

Good idea, we could try to set up something like Geologic Timescale --Arco Scheepen

Horseshoe Crab[edit]

Under living fossils, I don't think horseshoe crabs have ever been thought extinct. I think it's more of an issue of a living creature that has characteristics more in common with ancient critters than with modern ones. Jawless fishes like lampreys might also count. --Belltower

Ok, will change the text tonight --Arco Scheepen

I'm curious how the Horseshoe crab was ever thought to be extinct! They wash up by the hundreds on Florida beaches! --Dmerrill

I agree. They are everywhere. I saw some along the coast of China.

Horseshoe crabs fall under the not resembling any other living species part of the definition, not the once thought to be extinct part.

  • "Living fossil" just refers to their lack of morphological change across geological time. When a species or genus once thought extinct turns out to be extant, that's called a Lazarus taxon. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 107.3.44.127 (talk) 23:35, 3 June 2014 (UTC)

Invitation[edit]

Work is currently in progress on a page entitled Views of Creationists and mainstream scientists compared. Also currently being worked upon is Wikipedia: NPOV (Comparison of views in science) giving guidelines for this type of page. It is meant to be a set of guidelines for NPOV in this setting. People knowledgable in many areas of science and the philosophy of science are greatly needed here. And all are needed to ensure the guidelines correctly represent NPOV in this setting.  :) Barnaby dawson 21:42, 29 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Microfossils[edit]

microfossil redirects here, but there's nothing about them! :'-( - Omegatron 18:58, Jan 5, 2005 (UTC)

I think there should be an article on microfossils as well as a small section on them in the body of this article. Htaccess 10:59, 25 February 2006 (UTC)

There already is an article- micropaleontology- re microfossils. I've now fixed the redirect so that 'microfossil' points there, not here. I've also added a short clarifying para (using (reluctantly!) American spellings, for consistency). Badgerpatrol 14:38, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Thanks thats great work, much better now Htaccess 20:26, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

Duration of formation[edit]

Any information on how long it takes for a fossil to form? crazyeddie 07:30, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

It depends on the circumstances involved with the fossil. Fossils can be created in a matter of weeks if a catastrophic event occured.(Like a volcanic eruption or a massive flood) Alisyd 16:08, 13 April 2006 (UTC)

Is this not evidence to support Creationist theories that most (if not all) fossils formed during the flood of Genesis chapter 7?
Only if the flood magically deposited every single nonflowering plant below every flowering plant. It is not the time it takes to form a fossil that is important, but where it is found in relation to other fossils and features. Nowimnthing 23:41, 20 July 2006 (UTC)

Pic[edit]

I believe the picture that says "Fossil plants" is actually a dendrite, and not a real fossil. --DanielCD 19:17, 2 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Pic has been re-captioned and moved to appropriate spot. --DanielCD 16:35, 3 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Yes that's very possible. I just wanted to contribute the photograph which I had taken, but I am not competent in paleotology. I am happy that someone cares to examin it ! :) Rama 16:56, 3 Mar 2005 (UTC)


in the Globe and Mail[edit]

There was recently an article about anceint, perfectly fossilized dinosaur eggs, which showed that dinosaurs needed parental care, due to the infants lack of teeth. If anyone could find a link to this article it might bew of note here and in an article about dinsoaur behaviour.Ketrovin 03:42, 7 August 2005 (UTC)

Fossilisation/Subfossils[edit]

Someone could well add something about the actual process of fossilisation or make an article on it. Ciacchi 23:22, 12 February 2006 (UTC)

Very true indeed, and there's nothing about subfossils. They should be worth a section, as they're the (non-)fossils they mean when they talk about DNA extracted from "fossil" bone. Dysmorodrepanis 01:29, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

I know this is probably the dumbest question in the world, but is this "interwiki" link legit? [[PIRU'N'BONE]] --DanielCD 01:22, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

Fossil Mammoths[edit]

Per my daughter's 5th grade homework:

"Dead plants and animals may be perserved as various kinds of fossils. Elephant relatives called Woolly Mammoths have been frozen and preserved in ice. Many animals have fallen into tar pits and bogs. Insects may get stuck in gooey sap that later turns into amber. And when animals are buried quickly and bathed in mineral carrying water, bone eventually turns into stone."

Are frozen mammoths considered fossils?

In order for something to technically be a fossil, it needs to be silicified, meaning completely replaced with silica (common quartz) or another mineral like calcium carbonate (limestone). So technically frozen Mammoths aren't fossils. A fossil needs to be actual stone.
Still, people do use the word loosly to describe bones of prehistoric creatures that aren't yet silicified, such as sabretooth bones or bones of primates. But if there is still soft material present, like with mammoths, that's not something I think anyone would call a fossil, unless they are using the term really really loosly. I think it would be fine for a child's school paper. If you do a Google search for "Mammoth fossils", you can find places referring to the frozen remains as fossils, so it's probably fine for that. --DanielCD 20:34, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
  • A fossil does not need to be 'actual stone'. It's a loose definition, which basically encompasses all organic material derived from non-living organisms. Recently dead organisms (e.g. those on the sea-floor, or shells deposited on the seashore) are sometimes referred to as 'sub-fossil'. Animal and plant material which retains its original mineral composition and structure is still fossil material; secondary replacement or permineralisation are not prerequisite. Carbon films (e.g. graptolites), insects in amber, moulds of dissolved fossils, spores and pollen, and various other non-lithified material are all usually considered fossils. Badgerpatrol 21:50, 13 April 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for that clarification. I think I've even learned a little something here. --DanielCD 01:39, 14 April 2006 (UTC)
Technically, IIRC they're kryofossils ("frost fossils"). But note that this makes them fossils, but not fossilized. for this, organic matter has to be replaced by minerals. Dysmorodrepanis 01:27, 15 July 2006 (UTC)
I think the ichnofossil phenomenon safely puts any debate over fossil bodily remain states to bed. Kris 17:01, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

Fossil formation[edit]

Why is there no article on the formation of fossils and a diagram with it? i belive that that is a very important subject that needs to be covered. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 81.168.52.33 (talkcontribsWHOIS)

I agree. Someone has to volunteer to write it though. I'd love to, and will look into it, but can't promise I'll get to it soon. --DanielCD 00:40, 2 May 2006 (UTC)
Check out Taphonomy, it's an inadequate stub at present, but a place to start. Vsmith 01:23, 2 May 2006 (UTC)

I did - it looks good.

I started to clean up the fossil preservation section. More work to do to make it more systematic. We probably need a separate page on fossil preservation at some point. Wilson44691 (talk) 00:41, 14 January 2008 (UTC)

paragraph removed from article[edit]

I've removed the followin:

Fosslisation requires two important conditions in order to have the impression Of the living organism.
the first condition is the Biological condition, which is concerning with the internal composition of the organism's body and its skeleton's hard parts , the more hard skeleton is the body the organism have , the more ability to be fossiled :
example of fossils which remain for a long time is: the corals , due to its hard skeleton structure.
the other important condition is the Geological condition : which concerning the environment surrounded the body organism, as the environment more suitable for the organis, more fossils will remains.We also can see why Marine(Sea Water)Envronmental fossils is much more common than the Terrestrial(land) environmental fossils, in the first one we have the fossils saved from land conditions which may reduce the ability of fossilisation, ex; Weathering- the fossils Biggesr Enemy, so fossils in water tend to be preserved specially that no weathering exposed so marines fossils are much common.
those two conditions show highly the neccessary of fossilising of the living organism ..if one of these two conditions is absent we may not be able to see full fossils remains.

The material may contain something, but the writing is so poor that I decided to take it out. If the writer would like to do some work to make it presentable, it can be considered. Vsmith 02:32, 17 June 2006 (UTC)

Merge with Fossil record[edit]

After a couple comments over at Fossil record I thought it might benefit both pages if we merged. Fossil record seems to deal with the history of Fossil hunting and various historical views of fossils whereas this page deals more with the modern science of fossils. I think it would work well as one page here at Fossil that has a small section on the history and then goes into the science. The Punctuated equilibrium article is an example kind of the format I think would work here. Nowimnthing 18:37, 17 July 2006 (UTC)

The merger seems plausible, but, the fossil record is a notably paleontological concept. It seems to me there is already a bifurcation between fossils and paleontology on wikipedia, as if there are two distinct groups of authors. This may confuse people interested in either fossils or paleontology, given that the later is the study of the former, and the two broad topics are really inseparable. Many pages are in one or the other category, but not both, in what seems to be a random distribution. It is also interesting that taxonomy for some life forms includes evolutionary history (and extinct taxa), and others do not. In my mind, evolution, fossils, paleontology, and the tree of life are all inextricably linked.

I have given this page some thought. As a category, it seems fossils should complement the paleontology category, and visa versa. I think the page could benefit from an expansion of content on taphonomy (how fossils form), which then suggests a merger with Taphonomy. Let’s keep the dialogue going – I’m a new and timid wikipedian and willing to help work on this page. I also have some nice pictures, but have not yet learned how to place them in the system. User:Likearock

I think the merger is a great idea. The existing page is both well written and understandable to non-experts. However, some more substance would help, since fossils is a broad category, incorporating the fossil record would enable the page to provide more of a road map through which to drill down. The fossil record page can be augmented to provide such a guide in an evolutionary and/or paleobiology and/or paleontology context, probably all three would be best. In this way, the “fossils page” would resemble a scientific review article – and be a challenging, but interesting task. How are such decisions made?? User:Oldasdirt - Jul 20

Three days, 6 people in support (here and at fossil record), no oppostion, I think I will go ahead and do the merge. It may need quite a bit of cleanup after so feel free to give me a hand. Nowimnthing 22:47, 20 July 2006 (UTC)
Ok rough merge is complete, we probably need to break out the historical stuff from the fossil record stuff and create a seperate section called Fossil record. We also nee to look into and redundancies and eliminate them. Nowimnthing 22:56, 20 July 2006 (UTC)
Just a general point - what happens to the history when the articles are merged? I think we are supposed to show who created each contribution originally. Stephen B Streater 21:47, 21 July 2006 (UTC)
Reading through here: Wikipedia:Merging and moving pages it looks like all we need to do is note it here on the talk page. If we were actually moving a page the edit history would automatiacally come with it to the new name, but here the old edit history remains on the redirect page. Since this is my first merge, I may be wrong, feel free to correct me. Nowimnthing 22:02, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

Pre-merge talk page: Talk:Fossil record Pre-merge edit history: [1]

Thanks. Important not to delete redirect then. Stephen B Streater 07:52, 22 July 2006 (UTC)

Post-Merge Comments[edit]

A few comments for improvement: 1) Despite the new technologies now available for studying species genomes and proteomes, etc., the study of the fossil record and the individual fossils remains critical to understanding evolution and the tree of life branch points -- this should be stated and illustrated; 2) It is hard not the emphasize the so-called, Burgess Shale-type deposits (there are many of them) as a lens for the emergence of the phyla - Chengjiang China is the most important for contemporary discoveries; 3) While the resin fossils paragraph is nicely written, it links to an amber that contains some good information, but appears to have been partially hijacked by commercial jewelry interests and is thereby biased -- perhaps the link should be removed until the amber page is cleaned up, maybe by a polymer chemist; 4) The words "sea" or "marine" appear nowhere on the page, and yet all life came from the sea; 5) Neither is plate tectonics mentioned, although fossils are paramount in its understanding; 6) Stromatolites – a controversial subject, but it’s hard to accept that only cyanobacteria were involved – see Knoll: Life on a Young Planet; 7) YIKES - no Cambrian Explosion, be it bullet or bomb. Hope these comments help. User:SNP - P.S., I could help, or being new here, could provide some peer review function.

Don't worry about being new, sounds like you have some good ideas. Be bold and make some changes. Heck I have only been seriously editing for the past month and I am already merging pages :^) I think there are enough people around to help you out. Nowimnthing 18:45, 21 July 2006 (UTC)
I am initially constraining editorial boldness to the discussion page, because I think the two paragraphs that follow (offered without even my own copy editing) markedly expand the scope of the fossils page, which is my suggestion, but I worry about drifting too far a field. So, I look for feedback (concurrence and tomatoes) from what I think are several others dedicated to improving the page. I love the title “Developments in interpretation of the fossil record” that enables chronological storytelling. For references, I drew upon Knoll, Conway-Morris, Gould, Fortey and a couple of websites, all of which are enjoyable, non-recondite reading. I have also purposefully included keywords (e.g., tectonics; extinction events; Cambrian explosion) to facilitate page development and/or wikilinks. --SNP 14:52, 23 July 2006 (UTC)


Contemporary paleontology is too often thought of as the study of dinosaur bones because that is what captures the attention of the public and the news-reporting venues. The modern study of fossils actually has interdisciplinary linkages to many other scientific fields such as molecular biology, geochemistry, and evolutionary biology. The dinosaurs existed on an earth not greatly different than our own, and arguably their lineage is of relatively minor scientific importance. The preceding Paleozoic period was markedly different. It began with no terrestrial life, a highly oxygenated atmosphere, and with the progenitors for what would evolve to be the life forms we recognize today, as well as others that did not persist. Paleozoic fossils are testimony to an era of dramatic change to both earth and its life forms. The drama of the Paleozoic, beginning with the Cambrian Explosion exemplifies the coevolution of earth and life that has continued unabated since life appeared. “The evolutionary epic recorded by fossils reflects, as much as anything else, the continuing interplay between genetic possibility and ecological opportunity”. The earth’s climate, tectonics, atmosphere, oceans, and periodic disasters invoke the primary selective pressures on all organisms to which they must adapt or perish. Many extinction events punctuate geological history, leaving environmental voids in which lineages appear and divide. The life forms, in turn, greatly affect earth’s environments. The fossil record encodes the inextricably linked coevolution of life and planet, albeit with diminishing clarity prior to the Cambrian where mostly microscopic life left meager fossil clues.

Modern paleontology and evolutionary biology share a goal of unfolding the tree of life, which inevitably leads backwards in time to the microscopic life of the Precambrian when cell structure and functions evolved. Earth’s deep time in the Proterozoic and deeper still in the Archaean is only “recounted by microscopic fossils and subtle chemical signals”. During deep time, life only existed where it first appeared, in the sea, and most extant life yet exists mainly in the sea. Even now “the land-based animals each carry with them a miniature ocean, pulsing in their cells and circulatory systems. All life, including human, could be viewed as containers of sea water with the same mineral constituency as the oceans and a dynamic dispersion of molecules that perform the biological processes that constitute life”. Molecular biologists, using phylogenetics, can compare DNA nucleotide and protein amino acid sequence similarity to infer taxonomy and evolutionary distances among organisms, but with limited statistical confidence. The study of fossils, on the other hand, can more specifically pin point when and in what organism branching occurred in the tree of life. Modern phylogenetics and paleontology act together to clarify sciences dim view of the appearance life and its evolution during deep time.

Wow, very well written though I do feel it digresses a bit for an encyclopedia article. The article does need to flow nicely but we also have to keep the facts in plain view. Where were you thinking of putting this? Were you thinking of replacing any of the current text? Nowimnthing 18:58, 24 July 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the kind words, but it is really just a melding of the ideas of people smarter than I. And, I do not intend on placing them in the page. Both of the merged pages were already very well done. I offered these paragraphs as food for thought of possible ways to give the merged “fossils” page some more inspirational pizzazz and, importantly, convey the take home message that “fossils and their study” have been and remain important to science. As a molecular biologist, I’m well aware of the limitations of the science in my field to address major questions about evolution, especially during deep time on earth. If my instincts are correct, there are a number of people who work on this page. I’m unsure how the wiki collaborations work in practice -- is there a way that the existing page can stay in place while several people collaboratively attempt an evolved version? --SNP 22:56, 24 July 2006 (UTC)
Usually on big edits we can post sections here on the talk page with possible revisions and then get input. Nowimnthing 13:14, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
Good stuff there, with Knoll's influence apparent, and it will work into the existing page. --Likearock 20:20, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Notable fossils[edit]

I just took off a link to the t-rex, jane because I think that the section could easly get too long if we start putting individual fossils in there. Then I thought maybe we could have a section on notable fossils, but a better idea is to have a seperate page List of notable fossils. I was kind of suprised that we don't have one already unless I am missing it somehow. I tend to stick around the human fossil stuff, does something like this already exist or should I make it? Nowimnthing 02:27, 27 July 2006 (UTC)

I was also eyeing the “Jane link” as inappropriate clutter, especially given that the Burpee Museum of Natural History has its own page. It might be appropriate under T-Rex or Theropods, but not here. Several of the “See also” links are redundant or questionable (e.g., taphonomy, since it is now in the page narrative). Regarding a “fav” or famous fossil list, I think it would become intractably long, not to mention the subjectivity involved. I’ve already noticed that the Lagerstätte page has fallen victim to subjectivity, as several listed sites are not traditionally considered to meet the admittedly fuzzy criteria (i.e., extraordinary fossil richness or completeness); 100 paleontologists would generate 100 different lists. A separate page is possible, but you’ll be working on it for a long, long time I expect.--Likearock 03:01, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
Interestingly, the Theropoda page is only listed in the theropods category, and jane gets no mention. Nor do fossils page, though all known theropods are fossils. BTW, Jane is a very, repeat very, impressive fossil.--Likearock 03:22, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
I suppose the Fossils category comes up with a list, though it seems much more broad than what I was thinking. There are lots of species in there that are known by their fossils. I was thinking this might be more narrow to just the individual fossils that are notable enough to have their own pages. Some of might also endeavor to clean up the Fossils category to see it more evenly applied as you mentioned. Nowimnthing 21:54, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
After further consideration, you may have a good idea, and I offer ideas on its implementation. Were I to attempt it, I would build a matrix (i.e., table), with columns of geological time periods, and rows of either: 1) fossil site (many famous fossils come from famous sites, and some made the site famous; or 2) Phylum (going lower than phylum is probably impossible. I presume the table entries would be genus; species and common taxon name. If there was at least a stub to link to, the table entries would be blue rather than red. Do it, but don't desert this page, as I will need a copy editor.--Likearock 00:05, 28 July 2006 (UTC)
Well we already have an ok List of fossil sites so I think it would be 2. I created a basic page, but I like your idea, now I just have to figure out how to make tables. I don't want to overlap with the fossil sites page too much, but I may have to for really early collections of fossils like the Burgess Shale. I am finding it hard to find too many pages on specific fossils, everything seems to be just species pages with a small note if anything about the fossils. This might be much bigger task but an important one that paper encyclopedias can never do. Here we have the room to actually give people pictures of the actual fossils that scientists use to make claims about extinct species rather than just giving people the claims. If you want we can move this discussion over to Talk:List of notable fossils Nowimnthing 14:00, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

Importance of Fossils[edit]

Note that the Paleobiology page provides a categorization of the scientific disciplines at the conjunction of paleontology and biology that depends on fossils.--Loco 17:10, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Interesting, added it to the see also section. Nowimnthing 17:16, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Rarity of fossils[edit]

Hi, I'm currently hunting for citations for a phrase in the evidence of evolution regarding evidence from palaentology. The specific phrase needing citation is that "most fossils tend to be hard body parts such as bones" (paraphrased). It occurred to me that this section "rarity of fossils" pretty much states the same thing- was wondering if anyone had citation for this that I could use for the evidence from palaentology thingy? (sorry if I'm talking gibberish) Weenerbunny 10:47, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

It is kind of a common sense thing, but if you must have a source any paleontology textbook should mention it. Or you could go with another encyclopedia like Encarta
"The hard, indigestible skeletons and shells of animals and the woody material of plants are usually preserved best."
Nowimnthing 15:34, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
A lot is conjecture based on common sense. Often complex chemistry is involved, and testing plausible theories in controled lab conditions is mostly precluded since there is no way to know, much less simulate the conditions the deceased experienced over the eons. There are many citations that discuss paleoecology, taphonomy and preservation for certain fossil sites. I will be referencing a few of these in some forthcoming modifications.Likearock 19:52, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Discussion - Fossils and Religion[edit]

Would anyone really miss this nice, succinct paragraph?

Even so, various religious groups within the Abrahamic tradition have tried to explain the scientific evidence in the fossil record in ways compatible with creationist doctrine. These explanations are generally rejected by scientists as they make no useful testable predictions.

This should be a science page. Other wikipedia pages are for religion or religion versus science topics. I fear it makes the “fossils” page more of a magnet for religious comment than it inherently already is.

I reverted an erroneous reference on the basis of it being erroneous, but the sentence was an invite. Likearock 18:21, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

I'm with you. --Geologyguy 18:31, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
I consider the sentence is appropriate and was agreed by consensus on the Fossil Record page before the merger. The reference you deleted wasn't perfect, but had relevance, was from the Washington Times and procedures require all material should have citations. The example used to explain the necessity was the holocaust article has a holocaust denial section. That is to be an encyclopedia, there is a necessity of including notable views, even if they are considered demonstrably false. Addhoc 18:34, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
This is cut and paste from my talk page, to put the above in context Likearock 19:08, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
At the moment there aren't sufficient references in the Fossil article, in fact the references on your talk page are much better. I noticed you deleted a reference I added earlier to the creationist bit. The reference had some relevance, but didn't cover all of the information. Could you advise if there were any reason that I could be unaware of concerning your reversion of my edit? Addhoc 18:10, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
Please take your comment to the Talk:Fossil page where I explained the removal right afterword. Regarding references, I've been working on new expanded narrative for this page for more than a month; I've used more than a dozen references that will be cited. Your insertion was not a reference since it pertains to religious beliefs, not fossils. Your reference has nothing to do with fossils, and was not used by the author of the sentence.Likearock 18:32, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
Obviously, very pleased to hear you are working on putting references into the article. Could I suggest you don't use the word "religion" to imply the "Abrahamic tradition", "Christians" or "creationists". A citation to the Washington Times supporting copy could be a reference, even if it pertains to creationists. The sentence was developed by several users including me, but I agree at that stage we didn't include a reference. Addhoc 18:41, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
May I suggest that you develop the topic more completely in a separate section? I, for one, think the topic belongs elsewhere, but let's let the wiki vetting process work as it should. Unfortunately, the fossils page is a magnet for vandalism. There you can cite appropriate references that argue a religious interpretation of the fossil record, or better yet, how different religions view fossils. This page is an an overarching page that should briefly describe subjects related to fossils and provide links to other wikipedia pages that develop the topic more completely. References should never be so haphazardly inserted in any scientific writing.Likearock 19:08, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
In the original discussion, I considered two sentences one too many. However, the consensus was for a very short paragraph. Unfortunately there are large numbers of pages that attract vandalism in a wide range of subjects. After you include the references you are working on, I would suggest the creationist bit should have its own citation. Addhoc 19:19, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps that sentence could move up in the section to right before the part about William Smith and be turned into a paragraph about pre-scientific views of fossils. I think we could come up with something about early views such as erectus bones being used in China as "dragon" bones and ground up for medicine. We could then go into early western views with just a bit at the end that mentions that there is still a minority who hold to these pre-scientific views. Nowimnthing 21:10, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
I emphasize that if we start down this path, there will be no end to debate. My vote is to segregate science and religion, and keep this page scientific.Likearock 21:28, 9 August 2006 (UTC)
I think Nowimnthing's idea of putting the creationist bit at the end of a history section would be a significant improvement. Regarding Likearock's comment, the relevant section from WP:NPOV is as follows:
NPOV says that the article should fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by a reliable source, and should do so in proportion to the prominence of each. Now an important qualification: Articles that compare views need not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views, and may not include tiny-minority views at all (by example, the article on the Earth only very briefly refers to the Flat Earth theory, a view of a distinct minority). We should not attempt to represent a dispute as if a view held by a small minority deserved as much attention as a majority view, and views that are held by a tiny minority should not be represented except in articles devoted to those views. To give undue weight to a significant-minority view, or to include a tiny-minority view, might be misleading as to the shape of the dispute.
In this context, I think mentioning creationism in one or two sentences is probably about right.Addhoc 10:54, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Possible rewrite of the section
Various explanations have been put forth throughout history to explain what fossils are and how they came to be where they were found. Many of these explanations relied on folktales or mythologies. In China the fossil bones of ancient mammals including Homo erectus were often mistaken for “dragon bones” and used as medicine and aphrodisiacs. In the West the presence of fossilized sea creatures high up on mountainsides was proof of the biblical deluge. During the renaissance more scientific views of fossils began to emerge. Leonardo Da Vinci noticed some discrepancies with the biblical account:
"If the Deluge had carried the shells for distances of three and four hundred miles from the sea it would have carried them mixed with various other natural objects all heaped up together; but even at such distances from the sea we see the oysters all together and also the shellfish and the cuttlefish and all the other shells which congregate together, found all together dead; and the solitary shells are found apart from one another as we see them every day on the sea-shores.
And we find oysters together in very large families, among which some may be seen with their shells still joined together, indicating that they were left there by the sea and that they were still living when the strait of Gibraltar was cut through. In the mountains of Parma and Piacenza multitudes of shells and corals with holes may be seen still sticking to the rocks..."
William Smith (1769-1839), an English canal engineer, observed that rocks of different ages (based on the law of superposition) preserved different assemblages of fossils, and that these assemblages succeeded one another in a regular and determinable order. He observed that rocks from distant locations could be correlated based on the fossils they contained. He termed this the principle of faunal succession.
Smith, who preceded Charles Darwin, was unaware of biological evolution and did not know why faunal succession occurred. Biological evolution explains why faunal succession exists: as different organisms evolve, change and go extinct, they leave behind fossils. Faunal succession was one of the chief pieces of evidence cited by Darwin that biological evolution had occurred.
Early naturalists well understood the similarities and differences of living species leading Linnaeus to develop a hierarchical classification system still in use today. It was Darwin and his contemporaries who first linked the hierarchical structure of the great tree of life in living organisms with the then very sparse fossil record. Darwin eloquently described a process of descent with modification, or evolution, whereby organisms either adapt to natural and changing environmental pressures, or they perish.
When Charles Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species, the oldest animal fossils were those from the Cambrian Period, now known to be about 540 million years old. The absence of older fossils worried Darwin about the implications for the validity of his theories, but he expressed hope that such fossils would be found, noting that: "only a small portion of the world is known with accuracy." Darwin also pondered the sudden appearance of many groups (i.e., Phyla) in the oldest known Cambrian fossiliferous strata.
Since Darwin's time, the fossil record has been pushed back to 3.5 billion years before the present. Most of these fossils are microscopic bacteria or microfossils. However, macroscopic fossils are now known from the late Proterozoic. The Ediacaran biota (also called Vendian biota) dating from 575 million years ago collectively constitutes a richly diverse assembly of early multicellular Eukaryotes.
The fossil record and faunal succession form the basis of the science of biostratigraphy or determining the age of rocks based on the fossils they contain. For the first 150 years of geology, biostratigraphy and superposition were the only means for determining the relative age of rocks. The Geologic time scale was developed based on the relative ages of rock strata as determined by the early paleontologists and stratigraphers.
Since the early years of the twentieth century, absolute dating methods, such as radiometric dating (including potassium/argon, argon/argon, uranium series, and carbon-14 dating) have been used to verify the relative ages obtained by fossils and to provide absolute ages for many fossils. Radiometric dating has shown that the earliest known fossils are over 3.5 billion years old. Various dating methods have been used and are used today depending on local geology and context, and while there is some variance in the results from these dating methods, nearly all of them provide evidence for a very old Earth, approximately 4.6 billion years.
Some casual observers have been perplexed by the rarity of transitional species within the fossil record. The conventional explanation for this rarity was given by Darwin, who stated that "the extreme imperfection of the geological record," combined with the short duration and narrow geographical range of transitional species, made it unlikely that many such fossils would be found. Simply put, the conditions under which fossilization takes place are quite rare; and it is highly unlikely that any given organism will leave behind a fossil. Stephen J. Gould developed his theory of punctuated equilibrium in part to explain the pattern of stasis and sudden appearance in the fossil record.
Even with the wealth of information now known about fossils some groups maintain belief in the pre-scientific views of fossils.

let me know what you think, Nowimnthing 17:24, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Only two suggestions, perhaps not use the word "casual", also "creationist groups maintain belief in a pre-Darwinian view of the fossil record". Addhoc 17:39, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Why not casual, it seems anyone seriously studying fossils from either paleontology or geology would see the lack of transitional fossils as obvious and to be expected as a result of the nature of the fossilization process. As to the second point, why limit it to the vocal creationists - as any culture or religion in a mythological pre-scientific mindset would have trouble comprehending the details of paleontologic and biologic evidence. Vsmith 18:24, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Ok, I'm not bothered about "casual", it isn't the word I would use, but it makes sense. Regarding the sentence "Even with the wealth of information now known about fossils some groups maintain belief in the pre-scientific views of fossils", the appropriate word for these groups is "creationist". That said, I would settle for "groups in the Abrahamic tradition". Also the precise term isn't "pre-scientific", but possibly is "pre-Darwinian". Also I think "fossil record" sounds better than "fossils". Addhoc 18:43, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

As they say, “be careful what you wish for”. Religion here will cause it to become a scientific Rodney Dangerfield, and thwart enthusiasm that seems to exist to make demonstrable improvements. Justifying the reference that was added on the basis of NPOV is no more logical than intelligent design, and exemplifies what can be expected in the future. What a cohort of religious individuals, untrained in science, believe, based on faith, is not a part of the subject.Loco 19:44, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Which is exactly why I have framed the religion as a historical perspective. We can mention that some still hold to these historical views despite overwhelming evidence. Not sure pre-Darwinian would work because it goes back further to Da Vinci and William Smith. But yeah maybe a better word than pre-scientific can be found. I said some groups because I was trying to be more inclusive than creationist or abrahamic would allow. A chinese herbalist grinding up illegally obtained mammoth bones as aphrodesiacs would not qualify as a creationist or abrahamic yet he too is following an unscientific view of fossils. On the casual part, we can probably get rid of that whole paragraph since we have a section on rarity right below, that part just carried over from the merge. Nowimnthing 19:56, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Ok, I agree with Nowimnthing and would advise Loco that he isn't being very civil. Addhoc 20:19, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

I tried out a slightly different version than above and moved the casual part to the rarity section since it seemed to fit better there. We can work on the 'casual' sentence more if you like. Nowimnthing 23:15, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Importance of fossil record[edit]

I added the paragraph about recent research using tomography on microfossils to gain knowledge of early metazoan evolution. I could have placed this on other pages (e.g., Markuelia), but I think the fossils page needs juicing up regarding the continuing importance of the fossil record, and this is a fine example. More often than monthly, significant articles appear in prestigious journals such as Science or Nature, where fossils are paramount; very often, the fossils come from China. Here is the citation (this week's Nature) which I've not yet placed on the page:

Donoghue, C.J, Bengtson, S, Dong, X, Gostling N.J, Huldtgren, T, Cunningham, J.A Yin, C, Zhao Yue2,5, Peng, F, and Stampanoni, M, Synchrotron X-ray tomographic microscopy of fossil embryos (2006) Nature 442, 680-683. Loco 18:07, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Wikified and added your reference to the page. Could well be added to the Markuelia page also. Vsmith 18:45, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

STROMATOLITES - REQUEST FOR COMMENTS[edit]

I believe the study of stromatolites is one of the best examples of the importance of fossils to science. Accordingly, I have spent the last month obtaining and understanding papers (dozens) from diverse research spanning three decades. It turns out to be a difficult subject rife with scientific dispute. The paragraph below is a rough draft that I offer for editorial comment, as I prefer to avoid prolonged sessions on my computer due to my poor skills on same. Maybe someone can build a sandbox (?) to accumulate comments. After a week, I’ll give it another crack.SNP 23:46, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

"Earth’s oldest fossils are the stromatolites consisting of rocks built from layer upon layer of sediment and precipitants. Based on studies of now rare, extant stromatolites, growth of fossil stromatolitic structures was biogenetically mediated by mats of microorganisms through entrapment of sediments. Abiotic mechanisms for stromatolite growth are also known, leading to a decades long and sometimes contentious scientific debate regarding biogenesis of certain formations, especially those from the lower to middle Archaean. It is more widely accepted that stromatolites from the late Archaean and through the middle Proterozoic were mostly formed by massive colonies of cyanobacteria and that the oxygen byproduct of their photosynthetic metabolism first resulted in earth’s massive banded iron formations and then oxygenated earth’s atmosphere. Though rare, microstructures resembling cells are sometimes found within stromatolites, but are also the source of scientific contention. The Gunflint Chert contains abundant microfossils widely accepted as a diverse consortium of 2.0 Bya microbes. In contrast, putative fossil cyanobacteria cells from the 3.4 Bya Warrawoona Group in Western Australia is in dispute since abiotic processes cannot be ruled out. Confirmation of the Warrawoona microstructures as cyanobacteria would profoundly impact our understanding of when and how early life diversified, pushing important evolutionary milestones further back in time (reference). The continued study of these oldest fossils is paramount to calibrate complementary molecular phylogenetics models."

Edit Summary and Further Recommendations[edit]

Summary of edits

  • Some perspective added to first few paragraphs
  • Replaced stromatolites paragraph that contained errors, and uploaded an image
  • Paragraph linked phylogeny and fossils, especially Precambrian
  • Misc editing throughout, and, of course, internal links
  • Added references where appropriate
  • Cleaned up external links

Subjects I think still need addition or elaboration

  • In fossil record – the importance of lower Cambrian Lagerstatt during the past 20 years in elucidating early metazoan evolution.
  • Explanation of relevance of fossils to science of geology
  • The role of erosion and consequent sedimentation in creating the fossils record

SNP 14:10, 12 October 2006 (UTC) Why does it take so long to amke a fossil?

Using Fossils in Dating rocks[edit]

I already know that scientists can assume that certain fossils are certain ages, therefore, igneous rock particles nearby are assumed to be the same age as the fossil. If this is true, can you give me some examples???? I'm very confused. X Sxc Haz X 12:47, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

Probably what you are thinking of is when igneous rocks cut across sedimentary rocks with fossils in them. When that happens, using fossils to date the sedimentary rock, we can know that the igneous rocks that cut across the sedimentary rocks are younger. But without other evidence, such as radiometric dating, we can't tell how much younger. See also the section on Important principles of geology on the Geology page. Hope this helps. Cheers Geologyguy 15:55, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

"Fossils are thousands to billions of years old" - Clearly a POV Statement[edit]

Billions of years old? That kind of a statement is laughably POV, simply because it is stated like a fact. What about the people that believe that fossils are in fact, not billions of years old? (with good reason)? The age of fossils is not undisputed, assuredly.

Anyone claiming fossils to be "millions of years" or "billions of year" old obviously thinks this because of the sedimentary layers the fossils are found in. How do they know how old the sedimentary layers are? Because other scientists have dated them. How did they date them? By the "age" of the fossils found in the layers. Circular reasoning never works, and it throws the issue of the age of the earth into severe question.

Furthermore, It is only inferred that fossils are of a maximum age of billions of years old (and for that matter, a minimum of thousands... but there is much more evidence in that direction). Either way, radiometric dating is not observable, and you just can't see it. It's simply an INFERENCE based on elemental ratios (radiometric dating), that, IMO, are usually faulty anyway. We just can not look at current rates of rock formation, erosion, etc to determine the age of the earth because there may have been factors in the past that are not happening in the present. Faulty dating methods aside, you cannot generalize the age of fossils like that and make it sound like a fact.

Too POV for me.

That's why such a statement should be... (and IS, for now)

"Fossils are believed to be thousand to billions of years old." Andrewtheart 19:25, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

I think it should be presented as fact, on par with other articles with science/science, science/religion or science/creationism conflict. As a science article falsifiable 'facts' should be presented as fact so long as there is wide consensus among scientits. In this case scientific consensus is high, even though there are well known limitations to the methods used. A paragraph on limitations of fossil aging could contain a summary of these limitations. - Zephyris Talk 19:32, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
OK, so basically what you're saying is that if something is agreed on widely enough, whether it is fact or not, it should be presented as fact? I don't understand that logic. Consensus has little or nothing to do with the absolute, real truth of a statement. In fact, I should have even go further and said "believed to be thousands to billions of years old (although these figures are disputed)", but I'm actually making a concession! I do think, however, a more appropriate and formal statement to change the original to would be "Although most scientists hold that fossils are....". I think you can see my predicament. I hate seeing theories being plastered to articles as unchanging fact. Wikipedia is all about opening people eyes to other viewpoints and not being dogmatic. Regardless, the fact remains that POV is not acceptable in Wikipedia. Andrewtheart 19:43, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Andrew, it stems from the Undue Weight provisions of the NPOV policy, which is our guiding principle. The idea you are trying to promote is held by an extreme tiny minority in the scientific community, so small its inclusion would violate NPOV. Verifiability, not truth. Thanks, JPotter 19:56, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Also, the limitations of fossil age dating, mentioned by Zephris above, do not contradict the fact that fossils are indeed thousands, millions, and billions of years old. Cheers Geologyguy 20:00, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
“Laughably POV”? My my my, did I miss something, or is radioactive decay CONSTANT an oxymoron. I see no POV issue here, only some convoluted logic. A ratio is just that, not an inference, and statistics only applies to the extent that decay is random, and there is thus an associated error in decay counting (and if you count long enough, the statistical error is negligible). Any paragraph on accuracy of dating methods should accompany a page on those methods, not here, lest more laws of physics be violated. Neither is there: ‘theories being plastered … as unchanging fact”. The science involved here is both theory AND fact, that has been unequivocally and indisputably tested. Remember, a theory is a construct used in the scientific process of stating and empirically (observably) testing hypotheses. The hypotheses (theories) involved here have long been confirmed and validated as scientific FACT, and the null hypotheses set aside long, long ago (unless radioactive decay constants aren’t constant). The only recourse then for “accepting the null hypotheses” and challenging fossil dating is to invoke superstition. SNP 23:56, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
I'm trying to be a neutral point if view, and saying that for a scientific article a high agreement on falsifiable evidence is accepted as fact. This is a fundamental principle of science, not an issue of POV. The statement that "Wikipedia is all about opening people eyes to other viewpoints and not being dogmatic" may be true, but is not a reason to cast doubt on scientifically accepted 'fact' within a science article. By being a science article it must be assumed that it adheres to scientific principle.
Every page must present data, and conclusions drawn from it, in a consistent form, adhering to the principles the article is based on, whatever these principles may be. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Zephyris (talkcontribs) 01:44, 16 January 2007 (UTC).
Must remember to sign comments, no matter how tired I am! :) - Zephyris Talk 17:51, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

If there's so much fuss about the wording, why not say that "Scientists regard fossils as thousands to millions of years old". Both sides can agree that this is what scientists think. --Uncle Ed 00:43, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I would agree with you, Ed, but doesn't this create a disturbing precedent? In that, every article on Wikipedia that speaks of an age older than 6000 years must be qualified as such? JPotter 00:55, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
Not every article. Just hot button articles which address hotly debated issues. There's no debate over the age of Jupiter, for example. --Uncle Ed 00:58, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I see no reason to cater to some extremist minority view in any way. We do not ask the garbage collector's advice on medicine; we go to a specialist- a doctor.--Filll 05:05, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

There is no hot debate in paleontology or geology over the ages of fossils and rocks. The only hot buttons getting pushed are those of a group of religeous pseudoscientists who want to push their very minority views of religion on the rest of us. As was mentioned elsewhere - Wikipedia:Undue weight. Vsmith 19:38, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

What Filll and Vsmith said are appropriate. This debate has been discussed in so many other articles such as Evolution and Creation Science, and it is a waste of time to continue here. There is absolutely no reason to add information about extremist religious positions and pseudoscience in an article such as this. Read Religious perspectives on dinosaurs which is an article that just discusses that issue, is NPOV (mostly) and states clearly what is religious interpretation and what are facts. Orangemarlin 18:08, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

so zephris, if 70% of scientists thought that the earth was flat, does that make it 'fact'? i think not, considering that science means 'knowledge', and this is not knoledge, it is an assumption Ref ward (talk) 16:32, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
If 70% of scientists thought the earth was flat, they probably would do so based on some observable data indicating that was indeed the case. Since there's overwhelming evidence the earth is not flat, there's no scientist that holds this opinion. Even with a 70/30 split in the science community, it would be considered a pretty open case. When it comes to Young Earth creationism, the opposing side in science is less than 0,01%, simply because there's no evidence that have stood up to scientific scruteny supporting the earth is just a few thousand years old. Petter Bøckman (talk) 12:58, 23 February 2012 (UTC)

Proposal to spin-off fossil record[edit]

I think the controversial part of this article is the section on interpreting the fossil record. Why not split that off to an article of its own? --Uncle Ed 00:41, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Why not do what they did in Dinosaur, and spin off religious fruitcakes to their own page, like Superstitious beliefs about fossils ?--Filll 05:06, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
Such a spin-off as Filll suggests would be fine.... as for the existing section on the fossil page, to my eye it contributes a nice history regarding the study of fossils, quite encyclopedic, not controversial, and IMO it ought to stay here. Cheers Geologyguy 05:11, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
We recently had some trouble with the Dinosaur/religion page, as it was listed for deletion (here's the link). I'm not saying it can't be done, but it has to be done carefully. J. Spencer 18:28, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

The fossil record is intimately tied to the fossils it is built on. Therefore to split the current article is quite absurd. We don't need another religious/pseudoscience POV fork here. This article is a science article, the fossil record was used by early paleontologists to create a relative time scale. By using radiometric dating techniques, the relative dating of the fossil record was turned into absolute dating. The fossils are an integral part of the record. No reason to split the article - unless it's getting too long. If it does grow over long, then start splitting off the details on the various fields of paleontology: invertebrate, vertibrate, hominid, micro-paleo, etc. Vsmith 19:32, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

The problem WP faces is that a small fraction of extremists in many subjects wants to hijack WP for their own political agendas, to use as a religious recruiting tool, etc. Some articles like evolution have a large body of protectors, so they are not subject to predation. Fossil appears to be a well-written article that has not suffered from attacks. However, some other articles are outrageously biased, and it is impossible at the current time to fix them. I would point to black people, which is in very sad shape for a wide variety of reasons, or jesus as myth which is about how he was not a myth, in spite of there being several other articles already on that subject.--Filll 20:33, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I'm going to start with just a tad of an observation. We draw the line at articles such as Evolution and Creationism to keep it NPOV. Then the POV Creationists attack another article. Luckily, I'm a patient man, so I can throw in my 2 cents worth. The age of Fossils are verifiable facts. The Fossil record and its relationship to Evolution is a verifiable fact. If the the Fundies want an article on the religious interpretation of fossils, go forth and write it, while remembering NPOV and that it will be categorized as Pseudoscience. Otherwise, pseudoscience should not be in this article. Orangemarlin 18:04, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Just last year we merged Fossil with Fossil record to avoid these problems. The pseudoscientists try to break off little chunks of pages with few editors so they can make up stuff. It was diffuclt to monitor 2 pages. And they were not really warranted. The only time we should make a fork in Fossil is if a section gets overly long with legitiment content. I do not see that here. I think the page has come a long way since the merge, look back through the history here and at fossil record. Now there are a lot more editors making this into a possible good article candidate. Nowimnthing 00:05, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
If "fossil record" should not be a spin-off, then we need to identify a better place to discuss (or better, describe) the various Interpretations of the fossil record. --Uncle Ed 00:23, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

Ed, with all due respect, we really need your input on Religious perspectives on dinosaurs. The article is in sad shape and really needs someone with your background, talents and interests.--Filll 00:26, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

Fossils and the fossil record (and its interpretation) are inextricably linked, and should not be separated. This fossils page should be a bridge to expanded material on such topics as fossil formation (e.g.,diagenesis and sedimentology), which explain the why, how, and when of the record of past life on earth. SNP 23:21, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

fossil rockes[edit]

plz give me two types of fossil rocks plz that a yr eight would know —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 82.16.64.218 (talk) 18:45, 20 February 2007 (UTC).

Text messaging is going to be the death of the English language. Orangemarlin 19:43, 7 June 2007 (UTC)

Fossil Mountain[edit]

This section is poorly written and not sourced. It also strikes me as solicitation. Referring to a child as "a kid" in a scientific article is weak writing. While I think that this could be included in the article, it desperately needs to be revised. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 24.84.201.130 (talk) 23:54, 26 March 2007 (UTC). fossils can be found in sand stone

Information missing[edit]

It is probably worth noting what pre-scientific revolution people such as Aristotle thought about fossils. The Geology article says "The work Peri lithon (On Stones) by Theophrastus (372-287 BC), a student of Aristotle, remained authoritative for millennia. Its interpretation of fossils was not overturned until after the Scientific Revolution. It was translated into Latin and the other languages of Europe such as French." The specifics regarding this topic I cannot find. Anyone have the answer? Thanks AdamBiswanger1 23:44, 8 June 2007 (UTC)

uhh well i need inf. on bolivias fossil: the ankylosaurus and the trceratopstrackway i need it for a report. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 65.33.119.36 (talk) 21:19, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Fossil-collecting Code[edit]

My rather poor stub, with links to some on-line codes of ethics, is considered "non-notable' by some Wikipedia editor and will be deleted, unless one of you steps in. Thinking about this has softened my brain to the extent that it's beginning to dribble out of my ears, so I have removed Fossil-collecting Code from my Watchlist. But one of you may be willing to save it. --Wetman (talk) 09:15, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

How about adding this information to the fossil collecting page? That would seem a useful and appropriate place for it. Wilson44691 (talk) 12:02, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

C14 dating of fossils?[edit]

I understand fossils to be mineral and not biological matter. how can a fossil be C14 dated, since C14 dating is about Carbon 14 absorption into biological matter? --151.151.21.105 (talk) 15:41, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

Fossils are not C14-dated. However, many can be radiometrically dated (using other radioactive isotopes with longer half-lives than C14), usually by dating rocks above and below the fossil. For others, dates can be estimated from the strata in which they appear (and the species that appear alongside them), where those strata can be radiometrically dated at some other location... and so on. --Robert Stevens (talk) 15:50, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
Classic mineralized fossils aren't C14 dated. But organic matter preserved in the past few thousands years is arguably a fossil, and is datable. Note the main page mentions amber resin fossils, with extractable DNA. Not carbon datable when they're 40 million years old, but clearly still organic. -- Mindstalk (talk) 19:42, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
Not sure about that- I think it is possible to use radiocarbon dating even on inorganic carbon (not sure if that's what you meant or no, and I'm no expert on this matter, and I may be wrong). Any dead organism incorpated into the sedimentary record is a fossil whether it's 10 years old or 10 million years old- dead shells etc on the sea-floor (for example) tend to be called "sub fossil". Badgerpatrol (talk) 20:00, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Thank you. I misunderstood this section: Since the early years of the twentieth century, absolute dating methods, such as radiometric dating (including potassium/argon, argon/argon, uranium series, and carbon-14 dating) have been used to verify the relative ages obtained by fossils and to provide absolute ages for many fossils. it is a bit misleading at first glance, in my opinion. but the statement does seem to be correct. --12.216.60.170 (talk) 02:24, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Fossils can be Carbon-14 dated, and carbon dating is a form of radiometric dating in itself (since the isotopes decay radioactively). Carbon-14 has a half life of thousands of years- something does not have to be a billion years old to be a fossil (if it were, then Ar-Ar, U-Th etc., which have longer half lifes, would be used). It's quite rare (outside archaeology) because most palaeontologists work on rocks that are, as you say, too old to use Carbon dating. But really that statement is completely correct- can you specify what you think is misleading about it so that it can maybe be altered for clarity? Badgerpatrol (talk) 10:10, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Living Tissue[edit]

I was watching the science channel, and on it, they had cracked open the femur of a T-rex. They found living tissue. I edited that in, but it was deleted. Why? 76.213.130.20 (talk) 22:40, 17 August 2008 (UTC)Hyuuga-sama

It was controversial and no source was presented = deletion. Enlil Ninlil (talk) 04:52, 18 August 2008 (UTC)
You are mistaken; the find was of fossilised red blood cells and ligamental tissue, not "living tissue." I believe it's mentioned in the T-rex article. Aunt Entropy (talk) 05:43, 18 August 2008 (UTC)

It was not fossilized. They said that it moved when they would touch it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 76.213.130.20 (talk) 22:12, 28 August 2008 (UTC)

Then it was not a fossil. Enlil Ninlil (talk) 06:28, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

IN 6th grade you lreanr avout them —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.114.34.83 (talk) 23:08, 18 September 2008 (UTC)

The Relative Age of Rocks[edit]

The relative age of arock is its age compared to the ages of the other rocks surrounding it. The absolute age of rock is the number of years since the rock formed. Usually geologists use the law os superpostion to determine the relative ages of sedimentary rock layers. Also geologists also study extrusions and intrusions of an igneous rock,faults, and gaps in the geologic record. An extrusion is when lava that hardens on the surface. Then an intrusion is where magma cools and hardens into a mass of igneous rock. In addition more clues come the study of faults. A fault is always younger than the rock it cuts through. Also index fossils help geologists match rock layers.

Mammoth Fossils[edit]

Mammoth Fossils are found all over the world but the first full fossil was found in a cave in Sibera it still had undigested food in its stomach and some kinds of grass that does not live there any more. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.188.165.167 (talk) 13:34, 23 April 2009 (UTC)

new article[edit]

is it worth creating an article on intentional fossilization, or doing a section in this article? Andrewjlockley (talk) 15:09, 25 April 2009 (UTC)

Not sure what the content would be as I've never heard of the topic, nor has google (for either spelling of the second word). Mikenorton (talk) 15:40, 25 April 2009 (UTC)


Soft Tissue from T. rex[edit]

Here is a recent reference for the reexamination of the mass spec data from the "soft tissue" from T. rex: http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2009/731/1?etoc. Essentially, the two groups looked at the original mass spec data and verified that the original interpretations were correct, that peptides were present and their sequences were what one would expect for ancient collagen from the ancestors of modern birds. By definition, this material cannot be called fossilized because it is not mineralized, right? Where should this information go? Maybe it is already in another article.Desoto10 (talk) 22:46, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Why no mention of the *minimum* age of fossils?[edit]

I'm surprised to not see any mention in the entry of the minimum time-frame for fossilization to occur. All it says is "Hence, fossils range in age from the youngest at the start of the Holocene Epoch..." The Holocene epoch extends from 12,000ya to the present (and foreseeable future), so that's not a very helpful time-frame. And searching around the internets hasn't been any more enlightening; mostly turning up creationist sites that claim that fossilization can occur "very rapidly" under ideal conditions. I understand the fossilization process relatively well (for a layman), and it seems to me that there must be some sort of minimum time required for tissue to be replaced with mineral precipitate. How long is the minimum typical time it would take to fossilize even the smallest, most porous plant or animal remains? Surely I can't be the only WP reader for whom this question arose. Can anyone shed any light on this? Thanks. Bricology (talk) 22:56, 22 November 2009 (UTC)

Fossils are defined by their age. There's no single chemical transformation that makes a dead creature a fossil. Indeed, frozen mammoths and unaltered shells are still fossils, without any substitution of materials, provided only they are old enough. The key to the sentence you quote is "at the start of the Holocene", which means that things less than 10,000 years old aren't considered fossils. It's an arbitrary boundary but a useful one.
I agree about the importance of your inquiry, though. How long remains take to permineralize, dissolve and be replaced, or recrystallize are fascinating questions. The Taphonomy article may be a good place for that information. Cheers, Cephal-odd (talk) 17:26, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the explanation, Cephal-odd, although I have to say that I find the definition unsatisfying. If a "fossil" is any organism that's at least 10,000 years old, and if frozen mammoths qualify, what does the term "fossilized" mean? Merely "preserved"? And what of 10,000 year-old frozen mammoth, and a mineralized mammoth skeleton that's 4 million years old? -both simply "fossils"? Dictionary.com says that "fossilize" means "to replace organic with mineral substances in the remains of an organism", which is what I understood it to mean. Of course, I have no expertise in the matter, I just find the terminology ambiguous. Is there a more accurate term for the mineralized "cast" (for lack of better term) of an organism's remains? Thanks. Bricology (talk) 07:46, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
Agreed that the term "fossilization" commonly implies some kind of change to the remains, usually involving mineralization. But the term is indeed ambiguous, because it covers a wide range of events. To speak of fossilization in that sense implies that a clear process happens to creatures' remains, yet the way that a dinosaur bone becomes a fossil differs drastically from the way that an embryo (or bacterium) from the Doushantuo Formation becomes a fossil. Taphonomy is a young field, so there's still much to discover about how fossils are preserved.
The animals from the Burgess Shale, preserved as carbon films, are considered fossils even though minerals didn't replace their tissues. Insects in amber are called fossils too. In short, I think calling something a fossil is simply saying that it has been preserved, as you say. To address your specific example, the frozen mammoth and a permineralized skeleton are clearly preserved in very different ways, but are still fossils, just as a dinosaur's preserved bones, skin impressions, footprints, eggs, or muscle fibers are all fossils. I don't know of a single term that embraces all mineralized fossils but excludes all other types, although there may be one. A cast would be one example of such a fossil, where the original object has dissolved and minerals fill the void, but permineralized remains and petrified remains also fit your concept. Also, many structures are made of minerals to begin with. The columnals of a crinoid already consist of calcite when the animal is alive, and need not differ much when the remains are found a few hundred million years later.
Cheers,Cephal-odd (talk) 04:50, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

Fossil amber Image[edit]

(Moved from User talk:Kevmin Hi Karl, do you have a reliable source for the age of that fossil? Thanks, Crum375 (talk) 22:55, 26 January 2010 (UTC)

I do not, however do you have reason to doubt the caption of the image?--Kevmin (talk) 22:59, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I have no idea what the age is, or what type of amber, and I'd like a reliable source for it. According to WP:V, every item on wikipedia which is challenged requires a reliable source. Crum375 (talk) 23:08, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
How do you propose verification that the amber in this image is or is not Baltic amber? As for age of baltic amber that is Eocene per this, this, and this article--Kevmin (talk) 23:23, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
Unless we have a verifiable and reliable source telling us that the specific amber in that specific photo is Baltic, we can't call it Baltic. After it's reliably identified as Baltic, we could then give its age range, per reliable sources. But at the moment, all I see is a picture of what appears to be amber, without any reliable identification. Crum375 (talk) 23:29, 26 January 2010 (UTC)

Would this be a better image to have?

Brentidae beetle in Baltic amber, ~50 million years old
If there is a source for it, sure. But at the moment, all I see is someone's personal website, which is not verifiable and reliable for the fact that it's Baltic amber. Crum375 (talk) 23:33, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
This reasoning can be used to remove most images from wikipedia. You are requiring that only images that have been written up in a reliable source be included in the article, all others, the large majority of images of organisms in commons, have not and should be deleted then.
I'd have no problem with a Wikipedian saying, "I took this picture of what appears to be X at location Y and time Z." But if "X" requires professional or scientific input, like dating some old object or organism, it would constitute WP:OR unless there is a reliable source for it. You can bring up this issue on the WP:NORN or WT:NOR if you disagree. Crum375 (talk) 23:47, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
As a frequent contributer of paleoart, I am wondering if this problem applies to user made restorations. Many are based on reliable sources, which are often listed on their description pages, but are you considering them to be OR because they were not made by professional scientific illustrators? Smokeybjb (talk) 21:06, 27 January 2010 (UTC)
We make a special exception in WP:NOR for illustrations prepared by a Wikipedian based on reliable sources, subject to review by the other editors. The issue here is different: it relates to photography of some object, which is OK in itself, but if the caption states "this is a picture of a 10 million year old rock", we'd need a reliable source for that statement. Crum375 (talk) 04:10, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
I see. Sorry for the confusion. As for photograph verifiability, many fossils have somewhat restricted temporal ranges, so perhaps reliable sources could be provided that tell the age of the taxon, not the individual fossil? That might resolve the age issue. I'm not quite sure how the locality of a fossil could be reliably verified unless, according to reliable sources, the taxon it belongs to has only been found from that area. Smokeybjb (talk) 04:38, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
In this case in point, it was a photo of an insect claimed to be fossilized in Baltic amber. Baltic amber was apparently only formed during the Eocene, which can in principle be verified, but we would still need to rely on a Wikipedian who says this is Baltic amber and not another type. So as far as I can see, it boils down to OR. Crum375 (talk) 04:51, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
Robin?
thumb|150px|right|Avatar?
Arguably any user-generated image could be original research. Is the image to the right really an American robin or is it actually a cryptic species which is physically identical? Obviously since all animal photographs could hypothetically represent members of genetically distinct but morphological identical species we need to remove all of them that do not represent individual specimens who have been genetically confirmed to be members of the species they are labeled as in peer-reviewed studies that can be reliably sourced. Is the screenshot to the right really from James Cameron's Avatar, or just a very similar looking movie? Obviously we need to cite a cinematography journal before we can establish that this particular screenshot is from Avatar. Both of those claims, that picture A is a robin and picture B is from Avatar could be challenged in principle, but to demand sources is a bit absurd. Sometimes, in the absence of specific reasons to doubt, you just need to trust your fellow contributors. Abyssal (talk) 13:18, 28 January 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I agree that some degree of trust is needed, but consider that some editors may also have unknown agenda, and we have no way of vetting them. In the case of a photo of an object which is readily identifiable, such as a bird species, we would consider the image as "self verifiable", in the sense that any reader can compare it to other sources and if there is a significant discrepancy or question, it can be raised and addressed on the talk page. The problem arises when the image displays an object which the submitter claims has X chemical properties, or is Y million years old. We can still display the image, but to include those claims in its caption would require reliable sourcing, because there is no way to verify it directly from the image itself. Crum375 (talk) 13:49, 28 January 2010 (UTC)

I have posted a query about this on WT:NOR to get broader input. Crum375 (talk) 14:58, 28 January 2010 (UTC)

Inclusion of an image of a Eocene fossil flower?[edit]

Hi, I'd like to propose inclusion of some wider ranging images of fossils. I think it would be great to include either recognizable plant, or vertebrate fossils. I have an image of an Eocene fossil flower already uploaded, and can also provide images of Eocene fossils, easily recognizable as leaves, if required/requested.

Eocene fossil flower, collected August 2010 from Clare family fossil quarry, Florissant, Colorado

. Sladew (talk) 00:45, 30 October 2010 (UTC)

That would be an excellent idea, though, isn't it "Eocene"? (Also, perhaps we could post some of the Liaoning plant fossil pictures, too?)--Mr Fink (talk) 01:09, 30 October 2010 (UTC)
Quite correct on the spelling mistake... hmmm I wonder how I go about correcting that... Sladew (talk) 04:22, 30 October 2010 (UTC)
OK, have requested a "file rename" to correct the spelling mistake (chastened look included)... Sladew (talk) 09:42, 30 October 2010 (UTC)
Don't forget to have some indication of scale. -- Wilson44691 (talk) 01:35, 30 October 2010 (UTC)
OK I put it under rarety of fossils, as flower preservation is a rare occurance. Enlil Ninlil (talk) 09:09, 30 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. Let me know if you'd like any images of Eocene fossil leaves. Sladew (talk) 04:34, 31 October 2010 (UTC)

Edit request from KimberlyCoast, 31 March 2011[edit]

Could you please add the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival www.fossilfestival.com to the External Links? It's an annual free family festival, one of the Natural History Museum's main public outreach events.

Thanks, KimberlyCoast (talk) 12:26, 31 March 2011 (UTC)

Sorry, we don't do spam (promotion of involved user's organization) on request. Vsmith (talk) 14:08, 31 March 2011 (UTC)

Avicenna[edit]

Avicenna is known in the west primarily as a physician, particularly exalted as such before the rennaisance. It's misleading to refer to him as geographer. He was like Leonardo an all round scientist, best known for his work on medicine. I suggest an edit.99.226.235.171 (talk) 00:52, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

New likely fossil find in australia[edit]

[2] this story shows a new find in the same areas as other early fossils, this time discovered by a critic of other finds. This should be added to the section on earliest fossils, as possibly the earliest yet.(Mercurywoodrose)76.232.10.199 (talk) 18:26, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

More excellent examples of living fossils?[edit]

The Platypus and the Echidna are the only known mammals to lay eggs, and thus those two critters, and only those two critters, form their own mammalian order of Monotremata. Each one would therefore appear to qualify under part (b): "... a single living species with no close relatives..." . Accepting that there are limitations on the number of examples that one would wish to include in a comma-separated list, these two would nevertheless appear to be so unusual and important because of that one feature that they would be worthy of inclusion. Any problems if I add them to the list? Old_Wombat (talk) 03:45, 23 December 2011 (UTC)

Technically, no: a "living fossil" would not necessarily have no living close relatives. A "living fossil" would be any species or taxon that either is in the fossil record, or has many close relatives in the fossil record. Monotremes tend to be dramatic examples.--Mr Fink (talk) 04:03, 23 December 2011 (UTC)

Thanx for such a quick reply. Hmmm So are you disagreeing with me, or are you disagreeing with part (b) of the definition? In any case, given that you yourself say that they are "dramatic" examples, is this not an excellent reason to include them? Actually, on re-reading, I think that they are more part (c): "a small group of closely related species with no other close relatives". Old_Wombat (talk) 07:18, 23 December 2011 (UTC)

OK, after a bit of searching, I am confident that I now hold the ace of trumps. In the Living Fossil article we have: "... The term [living fossil] was coined by Charles Darwin in his On the Origin of Species, when discussing Ornithorhynchus (the platypus)". So if young Charles himself said it, and in the definitive book, who are we to disagree? On that basis, I am going to put it in. Old_Wombat (talk) 08:16, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

Did he reject it or not?[edit]

It says in the article that Avicenna rejected the idea that fossils were organic in origin. Bellow in a quote from a translated copy of his book he describes how animals and plants might get turned to stone.

The source for him rejecting the idea has also removed the page linked. 80.42.197.222 (talk) 22:23, 17 February 2012 (UTC)

Removed the rejection bit as the source (nonWP:RS?) no longer exists and was contradicted by the quote. Combined the two separated Avicenna bits by moving the quote up into better chronological order. Vsmith (talk) 23:32, 17 February 2012 (UTC)

Palentology template:[edit]

I added the Paleontology template to this article. I recently created it. It is very much a "work in progress", and I must stress that I am a total amateur at science. Please review it, make changes or leave suggestions on the talk page. --Harizotoh9 (talk) 04:40, 29 February 2012 (UTC)

Limitations of the fossil record[edit]

In regards to the "Limitations of the fossil record" section, keep in mind that I have recently replaced that section with a similar subheading from the transitional fossil article. The reason is that the old section ("Rarity of fossils") had zero references, and the section from the Transitional Fossil article covers the same information, while being well cited. Please review the old version and compare it to the new one. There may be information and phrasing that would be worth preserving.

Fossilization is an exceptionally rare occurrence, because most components of formerly living things tend to decompose relatively quickly following death. In order for an organism to be fossilized, the remains normally need to be covered by sediment as soon as possible. However there are exceptions to this, such as if an organism becomes frozen, desiccated, or comes to rest in an anoxic (oxygen-free) environment. There are several different types of fossils and fossilization processes.
Due to the combined effect of taphonomic processes and simple mathematical chance, fossilization tends to favor organisms with hard body parts, those that were widespread, and those that existed for a long time before going extinct. On the other hand, it is very unusual to find fossils of small, soft bodied, geographically restricted and geologically ephemeral organisms, because of their relative rarity and low likelihood of preservation.
Larger specimens (macrofossils) are more often observed, dug up and displayed, although microscopic remains (microfossils) are actually far more common in the fossil record.
Some casual observers have been perplexed by the rarity of transitional species within the fossil record. The conventional explanation for this rarity was given by Darwin, who stated that "the extreme imperfection of the geological record," combined with the short duration and narrow geographical range of transitional species, made it unlikely that many such fossils would be found. Simply put, the conditions under which fossilization takes place are quite rare; and it is highly unlikely that any given organism will leave behind a fossil. Eldredge and Gould developed their theory of punctuated equilibrium in part to explain the pattern of stasis and sudden appearance in the fossil record. Furthermore, in the strictest sense, nearly all fossils are "transitional," due to the improbability that any given fossil represents the absolute termination of an evolutionary path.

--Harizotoh9 (talk) 05:13, 8 October 2012 (UTC)

Copyedit[edit]

WikiProject Guild of Copy Editors
WikiProject icon A version of this article was copyedited by a member of the Guild of Copy Editors. The Guild welcomes all editors with a good grasp of English and Wikipedia's policies and guidelines to help in the drive to improve articles. Visit our project page if you're interested in joining! If you have questions, please direct them to our talk page.
 

Edited this as per request. Comments:

  • Really needs more footnotes for its many detailed cites.
  • Otherwise, I like it!


Cheers. Lfstevens (talk) 16:30, 10 November 2012 (UTC)

Edit request on 26 February 2013[edit]

you spelt paleontology wrong. it's actual spelling is palaeontology. thank you

92.40.253.72 (talk) 20:32, 26 February 2013 (UTC)

Not done: US and UK spellings are equally acceptable on Wikipedia; however, the rule is that one standard should be used consistently throughout an article so as not to alternate. In this case the US standard is used. —KuyaBriBriTalk 20:58, 26 February 2013 (UTC)

Edit request[edit]

This article currently reads "The soft tissues of organisms are made largely of organic carbon compounds, leaving a thin film of carbon residue is left, forming a silhouette of the original organism called a carbon film.[7]"

It doesn't make full sense for several obvious reasons, but someone with a confirmed account will need to fix this.

I also came here to say that the above "sentence" is gibberish. However, I can't correct it because I don't know what it's trying to say. WikiAlto (talk) 07:30, 12 April 2014 (UTC)

Reworded and removed dead and seemingly irrelevant reflink. Appears that the carbon film and carbonaceous film stub articles linked here and in the preceding section should be merged. Vsmith (talk) 13:41, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
OK, restored the carbon film stub to its original content and moved fossil content to carbonaceous film article. Vsmith (talk) 15:36, 12 April 2014 (UTC)

Tertiary is deprecated[edit]

I replaced the instances I could with Cenozoic. But I'm afraid the index fossil table is going to need a more knowledgeable person than me, and some sourcing while they're at it. --Dracontes (talk) 02:32, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 21 January 2014[edit]

10,00 needs correcting to 10,000 WilsonFiley (talk) 19:41, 21 January 2014 (UTC)

Done RudolfRed (talk) 19:47, 21 January 2014 (UTC)