Against the odds
- Keith Thomson
‘Against the odds’ describes the processes and conditions of fossil formation, the study of which is termed taphonomy. Fossils represent a tiny fraction of the diversity of life that has ever lived on earth and each fossil represents only a small portion of the once-living organism — usually only those parts of it that were tough and resistant to decay. Under certain conditions, whole communities of soft-bodied forms may be preserved as in the case of the Cambrian-age Chengjiang and Burgess Shale Lagerstatten. The stages of pre-burial, burial, chemical processes of diagenesis, and lithification are explained as well as trace fossils and the discovery and preparation of fossils for study.