Fossils for Amateurs-- A Handbook for Collectors by Russell P. MacFall & Jay C. Wollin

By Russell P. MacFall & Jay C. Wollin

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W o r m s leave tiny, n a r r o w tubular borings that m a y be curved or b r a n c h - Coal is not often thought of as a source of recognizable fossils. This Eocene fish was found in a coal seam near Frankfurt, Germany. THE N A T U R E O F FOSSILS 37 ing. Small sponges have left similar b o r i n g s , o f t e n radiating f r o m s o m e central point. B r y o z o a n s and boring corals leave tiny tubelike h o l e s , again most c o m m o n l y in shells. Everyone is familiar with teredo w o o d , w h i c h has b e c o m e the official state rock of N o r t h D a k o t a .

Carbonization Carbonization, also k n o w n as distillation, is one process that preserves fossils of soft-bodied animals and leaves and stems of plants. C a r b o n i z a tion chemically alters the proteins and cellulose of tissues through d e g r a dation by bacteria, by chemical action, and by pressure and h e a t , until only carbon films remain. O t h e r organic materials are dissipated as gases — c a r b o n dioxide, m e t h a n e , hydrogen sulfide, and w a t e r vapor. For e x a m ple, a thick, fleshy fern leaf of P e n n s y l v a n i a n times falls into mud.

At right is Phacops rana milleri; Devonian; Sylvania, Ohio. They differ mainly in the number of facets in the compound eyes. 42 FOSSILS FOR A M A T E U R S Helicoplacus Caster) gilberti, newly discovered echinoderm. (Photo courtesy Professor K. E. b o t t o m by a stalk b u t w a s free-living. Its closest relative in the fossil world appeared to be a group of starfishlike animals k n o w n as edrioasteroids. W h a t was unique a b o u t this n e w o r g a n i s m was the spiral arrangement of the tiny hard plates of its b o d y .

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