Talk:Fossilization (palaeontology)

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 Definition The set of geological processes that convert organic remains into fossils. [d] [e]
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 Workgroup categories Anthropology, Earth Sciences and Eduzendium [Categories OK]
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Carbonate preservation

I am reading this article, which is indeed good - one of the finest among Earth Science I should say. I have some questions about carbonate preservation, though.

  • Ideal conditions for carbonate preservation are normally found in organic-rich shelf sediments
Why organic-rich? Organic matter decay usually lower the pH, leading to dissolution. Or, do you mean "rich in living organisms" which shells may be fossilized? If so, this concept could be expressed more clearly.
  • Sulfate reduction is required for cementation to occur
Not sure about that. Do you have a reference for this? Note that seawater is naturally supersaturated with respect to calcium carbonate. Also, cementation in continental environments (e.g., caves, travertines) do not need sulphur to take place.

Just two minor notes. Keep on going with the good job! --Nereo Preto 09:37, 27 September 2007 (CDT)

Ok, I saw the changes. Thanks, great job! --Nereo Preto 13:21, 2 October 2007 (CDT)


Another note. Could you add some lines in the overview where you explain the steps one dead part should pass through to get fossilized? Like, deposition, burial, diagenesis... I believe this is important, because there are terms used in the text (e.g., diagenesis, but you may also want to write about biostratinomy or taphonomy somewhere) which need to be defined. (BTW, parhaps, there are such lines already - I admit I couldn't find the time to read all text carefully...) --Nereo Preto 09:43, 27 September 2007 (CDT)

The first line of the overview gives a list of 4 actions "need"ed for fossilization. The second one, Biostratinomic processes, seems optional, so "need" doesn't seem like the right choice of word. Warren Schudy 23:23, 7 January 2008 (CST)

The overview includes a sentence ending with "are normally prone to destruction in diagenetic environments". Can you choose a less terminology-heavy way to phrase that? I can guess that a diagenetic environment is one where diagenesis happens, but it's still a bit awkward for non-anthropologist me. Warren Schudy 23:23, 7 January 2008 (CST)

Good job

Good job, Natasha. I wonder, however--will we have another article, with a different focus, titled fossil? The title, and the article so far, describes mainly the process. Will it concern only the process, or will it concern fossils generally speaking? If so you should link the first instance of fossil. --Larry Sanger 12:11, 27 September 2007 (CDT)

Developed, kind-of

This article is substantially developed in my view... save that it is mostly about fossilization in continental environments rather than marine environments. This is because the main author is a student of Dinosaurs, so she is continental-oriented. Which is ok, of course, the contents are rich and really good. In fact, if not for the fact the marine stuff is underrepresented, this article could be driven to approval in a reasonable time perhaps.

So, first of all, my compliments to User:Natasha Barbolini. You did a great work so far!

Second: if anyone wish to work on fossilization in marine environments, I'm ready to take care of this article's approval. Most fossils and rocks are marine, though, so the marine part is essential.

--Nereo Preto 05:51, 3 October 2007 (CDT)


This article appears to be in British English, with -ize endings [i.e. Oxford English] so I have inserted that as the language variant. I have also promoted it to category 1, as it seems to be fully developed. Apologies if that is not correct, and revert if needed.--Martin Baldwin-Edwards 06:51, 6 October 2007 (CDT)

Mmm... ok, sure enough is one of the most complete in Earth Sciences. Let's keep it in category 1, this is correct with respect to the average of the workgroup, though see above: we need text about fossilization in marine environments. Compliments to the author(s): this is the first developed article of this workgroup! --Nereo Preto 06:59, 6 October 2007 (CDT)

endocranial cast

the illustration shows an endocranial cast of a. africanus. ; the text in the paragraph next to talks about casts as being external. this needs to be clarified. (And unless am mistaken, isn't "cast' used also for one prepared in the museum from a specimen to make a copy of it? )

Towards Approval

I see that this article is certainly close to approval. Is there an Earth Sciences or Anthropology editor that can take a look and let Natasha know if there is anything else needed. Otherwise, Natasha, your next step is to contact the editors of these workgroups and see if someone is ready to nominate this article for approval. Good luck, let me know if I can help with the mechanics of how to do nominate this article. --Matt Innis (Talk) 19:35, 28 October 2007 (CDT)/constable

As a side note, this is a student project article, so time is critical. Also note that Professor Berger is teaching a collaborative process and wants Citizendium authors and editors to go ahead and make any appropriate changes on the article they feel are necessary (content or style), so jump in wherever. Treat this just like any other article on Citizendium. --Matt Innis (Talk) 19:43, 28 October 2007 (CDT)

I started going through the article. The first thing I note is we have a summary here, which is great. I suggest to move it to the top (see my edit), it gives the reader motivation to continue and makes the function of the abstract of scientific papers. Not sure my layout is the best possible, though...
Second point is also about easy-reading. Where the steps to fossilization are listed (overview chapter), it would be GREAT to have a small table giving the names of these steps (i.e., death, deposition, biostratinomic processes and so on) and, in a second column, a brief definition (copy-and-pasted from main text?).
Further comments as I'll read more carefully. Great job so far, hope we can really approve! --Nereo Preto 09:07, 5 November 2007 (CST)

I'll try below to act purely as editor, i.e., suggesting changes (which can be discussed. More: discussion is welcome and encouraged) without actually editing the text. Hope authors won't feel like in a class because of this - it is not my intention anyways. --Nereo Preto 05:12, 10 November 2007 (CST)

Conditions for preservation

Within this chapter, I see a problem. Two conditions for preservation, which I believe are perhaps the most important, are cited late in the text and their importance is apparently underestimated.

  • The first is, marine organisms are much easely fossilized than continental ones. The main reason for this is that marine environments are normally depositional, while most terrestrial environments are erosional, or depositional only episodically.
  • The second is hard parts. It is true hard parts are not a must for fossilization, but preservation of soft tissues is always considered an exceptional instance. This should be clarified in the text, and perhaps highlighted.

--Nereo Preto 05:12, 10 November 2007 (CST)

A minor comment: microbes (bacteria mostly) should be listed under the destructive agents, especially because they are then cited later in the text (e.g. where it is pointed out that cold and anoxia hamper bacterial decomposition). --Nereo Preto 05:12, 10 November 2007 (CST)

"Deep marine environments accumulate sediment and would bury marine plants and animals, but most of these fossils are still submerged in ocean depths.": This is true only for not-so-old oceanic sediments, and not always anyways. Actually, the majority of sedimentary rocks cropping out on continents are marine, and yield indeed plenty of marine (and terrestrial in some instances) fossils. Ocean sediments and rocks, even from deep ocean environments, are piled in accretionary wedges at active plate margins and then uplifted in mountain chains, especially during continental collisions. Sequences of oceanic crust (including their sedimentary cover) uplifted and exposed on land are called Ophiolites (suppose we don't have this yet of course).

I don't think all this needs to be explained in this article, but the quoted sentence is inaccurate in the light of all this, so I suggest it should be rephrased in some way. --Nereo Preto 05:21, 10 November 2007 (CST)


I think the summary box is strictly unnecessary. The first section of every article should contain a summary of the topic, so that's where that text belongs. --Larry Sanger 09:51, 5 November 2007 (CST)

A good solution here would be to merge the contents of the present introduction to those of the summary in the box, and then drop the box. I suppose this is how the article should evolve.
I must admit, however, that my personal preference would be to have an introduction AND a summary or abstract, the latter hihglighted in some way. This comes from my experience in reading scientific papers. When the article gets long and my time short, abstracts are fundamental: they save me a lot of time when I realize that it was not what I was looking for. --Nereo Preto 12:06, 7 November 2007 (CST)

Towards approval (2)

N. Barbolini did a great job bringing this article to developed stage. I have acted as editor as much as I could till now, but now I wish to contribute substantially and fill the gap to approval - which is possible in my view. It will take time, as long as I'll be the sole contributor - academic duties steal much of my time.

It should be clear someone else should take care of the approval once the process is nearly finished, I'll won't be a really neutral editor by that time! I'll also need help with final copyediting as I'm not native English - grammar and spelling errors are likely to remain unnoticed!

Any help is welcome. --Nereo Preto 06:06, 2 December 2007 (CST)

I'll help

I'll keep and eye on it and I'll monitor it as you near the end.

Lee R. Berger 08:51, 4 December 2007 (CST)

Great! --Nereo Preto 10:44, 4 December 2007 (CST)
Just as a side note, as a constable, I would have allowed Professor Preto to approve this article because his edits were mostly copyedits and style without any introduction of original work. --D. Matt Innis 22:16, 7 January 2008 (CST)
It would be quite good to have someone from the Earth Sciences Workgroup join in on the approval. Having multiple workgroups involved gives the approval some extra oomph, I think. --Joe Quick 22:53, 7 January 2008 (CST)
I agree with Matt and Joe. I'll email Nereo. Stephen Ewen 23:06, 7 January 2008 (CST)
Nereo, to add you name to the nomination, just go here and add your username where it says ToA editor2= Stephen Ewen 23:09, 7 January 2008 (CST)
Can we wait some time before approval? I realize I was expected to work on the article earlier than January 2008, but it is still in my plans, really. And the major resistance I have about approval (i.e., insufficient description of fossilization in marine environments) still holds. So, I'm not ready to sign for approval yet. It is still my plan to complete the article. Let's fix a deadline for the end of the month. After January, I won't anymore interfere with the approval process, even if I couldn't fill what I perceive as significant gaps. --Nereo Preto 07:08, 8 January 2008 (CST)
Currently, the article is slated for approval tonight. Technically, if any editor does not feel that it is ready, he/she may remove the ToApprove template. Theoretically, Nereo could just change the date himself, I think, but it would probably be better to just agree with Lee to give it more time. I'll wait some... --D. Matt Innis 15:38, 8 January 2008 (CST)

I took the liberty to change the expiry date. Today, working on the article, I see another thing I want to correct - the most important fossil lagerstatten are missing. In such a list, we cannot avoid to cite Burgess (middle Cambrian, early explosion of life), Solnhofen (Archaeopteryx), perhaps Holzmaden, Bolca, Rancho la Brea and one or two of the richest dinosaur localities in Africa or the US.

I realize this delay is mostly my fault - I hadn't time to work on the article. Again, sorry about that. However, I believe waiting 'til the end of the month is not so bad, if the article gets more complete. Hope Lee won't be mad at me! My point of view is, the article is great but incomplete. I won't change much of the existing material, just add more to balance towards fossilization of marine organisms - in marine environments. --Nereo Preto 01:45, 9 January 2008 (CST)

OK, I think the article is ALMOST set for approval. Please someone take a critical look to it, I'd feel much more confident then. I have a problem with "carbonization of refractory tissue", I didn't really get what it was about in the original text, this particular point must be checked out before final approval. Overall, the text was great before my revisions, some good writer should check out I didn't screw it up too much... --Nereo Preto 10:40, 26 January 2008 (CST)

Merge with Taphonomy or Fossil?

This article seems to have a lot of overlap with Taphonomy and Fossil; perhaps fossilization should be merged with one or the other? (I don't know any anthropology so don't take me too seriously.) Warren Schudy 23:43, 7 January 2008 (CST)

My read on this (since I gave the assingment I'm biased:-) is that these are clear and distinct topic deserving of independent articles although broadly linked in theme.
Lee R. Berger 01:44, 8 January 2008 (CST)
I agree. People who come to CZ seeking information on these terms will be looking for somewhat different information in each case. Overlap is okay, since we don't have any practical constraints on space and the information that appears in multiple places is relevant to each. --Joe Quick 05:40, 8 January 2008 (CST)
I back comments here. There is indeed some overlap, but Taphonomy and Fossil as topics include different things than fossilization. The argument for a merge is actually strong between Taphonomy and Fossilization (Taphonomy is the study of part of the Fossilization process), but treating all taphonomy into fossilization would imply a gigantic article. I am for keeping the articles separated. --Nereo Preto 07:13, 8 January 2008 (CST)


I modified the position of the TOC and the lede image for document flow. please feel free to comment or revert. --Robert W King 14:47, 8 January 2008 (CST)

Yes I have a comment. Great, thanks! :) --Nereo Preto 01:36, 9 January 2008 (CST)
Wow, that does look nice. :-) Stephen Ewen 17:19, 9 January 2008 (CST)


I noticed there are a lot of cites from Allison, P.A. & Briggs, D.E.G. 1991. Taphonomy: Releasing the Data Locked in the Fossil Record. Plenum Press, New York. I am assuming this is a book by these authors rather than a short article in an edited book. Should either the relevant chapter or the page number be used to distinguish these citations? Chris Day (talk) 01:50, 9 January 2008 (CST)

Overview 2

I put these comments in the overview section of the talk page recently, but no one seems to have noticed (do people look at the talk pages directly rather than using diffs?), so I'm repeating them here.

The first line of the overview gives a list of 4 actions "need"ed for fossilization. The second one, Biostratinomic processes, seems optional, so "need" doesn't seem like the right choice of word. Warren Schudy 23:23, 7 January 2008 (CST)
The overview includes a sentence ending with "are normally prone to destruction in diagenetic environments". Can you choose a less terminology-heavy way to phrase that? I can guess that a diagenetic environment is one where diagenesis happens, but it's still a bit awkward for non-anthropologist me. Warren Schudy 23:23, 7 January 2008 (CST)

--Warren Schudy 12:52, 9 January 2008 (CST)

Ok, got it now, thanks. Yes, I usually look at talk pages without using diffs, so notes up in the page went unnnoticed. Sorry. I'll take care of your comments asap. --Nereo Preto 16:38, 9 January 2008 (CST)

For what the first point is concerned, there was a sentence as "biostratinomic processes may alter..." I calcelled that "may" and phrasing should now be coherent (biostratinomic processes do actually always occur). Thanks for this useful comment!
No problem! What about an organism that's buried alive? I guess disorientation will always happen. Is the definition of "biostratinomic processes" those which actually occurred before burial for a particular fossil, or those processes which usually occur before burial, so for a fossil that's buried quickly the biostratinomic processes continue after burial? On one hand, it's a bit confusing to say that biostratinomic processes are needed, when all of the ones listed seem harmful. If you somehow managed to avoid those, fossilization could still occur, hence you don't "need" it. On the other hand, perhaps mathematics-style precision is not worth seeking in this context. Warren Schudy 18:02, 9 January 2008 (CST)
Feel free to ignore this; I don't think this is worth getting into a long talk page discussion about. Warren Schudy 18:04, 9 January 2008 (CST)
I guess I saw your point now, which is about the use of "need to" with the meaning of "it cannot be avoided". I tend to agree, "need" might be misinterpreted. Try your edit, I'm positive it will be fine! --Nereo Preto 02:56, 10 January 2008 (CST)
I started by replacing "need to pass" with "passes". Some stages are good and some bad, so a neutral word seems good. I wasn't really happy with how the resulting sentence flowed (especially "in order to" didn't make sense), so I reworded it. OK? Warren Schudy 10:57, 10 January 2008 (CST)
Fine, as expected! --Nereo Preto 13:25, 10 January 2008 (CST)
About "diagenetic environment", I read the paragraph and ok, it is a bit technical, but there is a great deal of explanations and examples within a few rows of text, I don't feel like the phrasing is hard to understand. Besides, Warren, you got the meaning right, so the sentence seem to work. I would keep it as it is, but if you have a simpler, elegant solution (which I do not have), feel free to go ahead and edit. --Nereo Preto 17:17, 9 January 2008 (CST)
Hmmm, what about just deleting "in diagenetic environments"? I don't think that phrase changes the meaning of the sentence any. However, I'm not sure my proposed deletion would flow as well. Leave it as is I guess. Warren Schudy 18:02, 9 January 2008 (CST)
Yes it works - done, thanks. --Nereo Preto 02:52, 10 January 2008 (CST)

Carbonisation of refractory tissue

...I bet it was about charcoal. Did I get it right? I'm clueless here. Please help. --Nereo Preto 04:13, 20 January 2008 (CST)

I have no idea about that, but I am puzzled by the two different spellings; carbonization and then carbonised. I notice that this article style is British, should it be carbonisation or is this something that is technically correct for this field? D. Matt Innis 18:27, 26 January 2008 (CST)
No, actually, it is that most text was written by Natasha in british English, then I came with my american style. My fault. I'd like someone with a better knowledge of the language could surf the article and fix all style issues. I just cannot figure out which is better here, -ise or -ize... thanks for the note Matt, if nobody shows up, i'll correct this problem myself (in -ise) --Nereo Preto 03:34, 27 January 2008 (CST)

Good show!

Informative and well-written. Thanks to Nereo for directing my attention to this.

Couple of questions from the Overview section. Is "definition" the best word for the heading? for the first stage, "death", that is not strictly speaking a definition that is given, though other stages are in fact defined. Also, I don't quite follow this bit: "Generally, this is the first stage in fossilization. However, death can also occur as a result of burial." I understand what is being said, but not why death by burial (smothering or pressing) means that death is no longer the first stage. does my question make sense?

I'm just doing some minor copyediting; by all means revert if I change the meaning of anything. If I have any other questions, of course I'll mention them :)

Anyway, I don't see anything that should prevent an approval--way to go!

Aleta Curry 03:53, 28 January 2008 (CST)

Thanks for the reading Aleta. Good point about the table in "Overview".
I fixed the issue of "death-first stage" (so I believe at least), but couldn't figure out what to place instead of "definition". Any ideas?
--Nereo Preto 13:52, 29 January 2008 (CST)


I've never been comfortable with the circular lede, "Fossilization is the process that creates a fossil." Should I be? Shoudl it be more like "Fossilization is the process where environmental blah-blah acts upon blah-blah over time to create a fossil." Stephen Ewen 14:52, 29 January 2008 (CST)

I see your point Stephen. Let me think about it, I'll try to find a less circular-looking incipit. The meaning of it will be the same, though. --Nereo Preto 01:52, 30 January 2008 (CST)
Also, would it help to make brief mention of petrification to distinguish it from fossilization? I added petrification to the related articles list, in any regard. Stephen Ewen 14:58, 29 January 2008 (CST)
Petrification is just a (rather rare) type of fossilization, not sure it should be distinguished. Is there any part of the text where this fact is not clear enough? I suppose it might be just a matter of writing style. --Nereo Preto 01:50, 30 January 2008 (CST)
I suppose that depends on whether or not Petrification warrants its own article. I'd not know. If not, then perhaps a brief mention here might be a good idea, as well as a redirect from Petrification to this article. The angle from which I am approaching this is linguistic and assumes that if the term is separate then their must be some meaning that is distinct that might warrant mention. Just trying to make sure we've got our bases covered here. Crystal ksmiletris.png Stephen Ewen 02:05, 30 January 2008 (CST)
Uh, ok. Yes it does, in the very long term. There are many other internal links to add before Petrification, but of course this is my insider point of view - other may look exactly for that word of course. I'll modify slightly the def. in "related articles" and add more links soon. Thanks Stephen, nice catch. --Nereo Preto 02:10, 30 January 2008 (CST)
(P.s.) there is an explanation in the text of what petrification is. Is it your point that the text there should be more clear? --Nereo Preto 02:15, 30 January 2008 (CST)

Two days till Approval date

Just a heads up for those interested. Any last minute details? Don't forget to check the version number that you want approved! Ask me if you have any questions. --D. Matt Innis 20:02, 29 January 2008 (CST)

There is a list of mostly minor problems to fix, which can be obtained by surfing the talk page. Open issues are listed below, feel free to add. --Nereo Preto 02:00, 30 January 2008 (CST)
Well, and, of course, strikethrough when solved! --Nereo Preto 02:02, 30 January 2008 (CST)

Open Issues

  • The incipit sounds circular (Fossilization is the process that creates fossils). Better phrasing wanted.
  • In "Overview", table, 2nd column: is "Definition" an appropriate title?
  • Clarify what is meant by "carbonization of refractory tissue". I (Nereo Preto) have no clues.
    • Upon first read, it is nearly meaningless jargon to Stephen Ewen, who is an undergrad anthropology major. Since both this and the above are so, it most surely leads to the safe inference that the phrase too largely misses our target "university-level" audience.
  • At least another expert/editor, which is not me (Nereo Preto), should review the text.
    • Lee?
  • Subpage "Bibliography" is void. But I suppose it can go as it is, references are abundant in the main article page.
    • Per policy, this can be added to even after the main article is approved.
  • Should we be more clear about Petrification VS Fossilization, as suggested above?
  • British and American English are probably a little mixed up in the text.
    • This was brought past the stub stage in British English so should remain such. Just prior approval, after all additions are added, User:Martin Baldwin-Edwards and User:Aleta Curry are fluent in both Englishes and have the ability to make it consistently British English.
  • Add to "Related Articles" section (secondary issue).
  • Comment or explain "External Links" (secondary issue, but would be useful).

Any contributions about the open issues above? I won't find the time to work on it within today, so if anybody shows up, I'm going to shift the approval date further ahead (1 week). Some of the issues above MUST be addressed before approval (i.e., at least: carbonization of refractory tissue, overall reading by someone else than me, British VS American english). --Nereo Preto 10:43, 31 January 2008 (CST)

Update: I removed the toapprove template. I am ready to nominate the article again as soon as the issues above are addressed. I'll work on it. I can't do it all by myself, though. --Nereo Preto 03:35, 10 February 2008 (CST)

British versus American English -- I think that British publications now use a lot of non-British English in paleontology, rather than the British. For example, "fossilization" is more common than "fossilisation" from quickly searching the Journal of the Geological Society of London, and the Royal Society journals, and "carbonization" is more common than "carbonisation." Only one older issue of the Journal of the Geological Society is returned for a search of "fossilisation" versus a dozen or so for "fossilization," for example. Also, will the article be moved to "Fossilisation?" Or will this British English only deal with words such as "behaviour" versus "behavior?" I'm happy to change to British English as I edit, to make it a quicker job for the dialect editors, but would need some guidelines on how British English to go with the jargon in particular. --K. Leo Pullin 17:42, 10 February 2008 (CST)

K. Leo Pullin, my impression is that you are right, we should go for American English because papers usually go for it. If you mind surfing the article and correcting any British words I missed, that would be great. And, if in the process you spot something that could be improved, go ahead! Ciao, --Nereo Preto 08:15, 11 February 2008 (CST)

Just dropping in to say that I think the approval process going on here is simply wonderful: a thorough going over of everything top to bottom, while carefully considering each person's comments. Awesome! Stephen Ewen 18:04, 10 February 2008 (CST)

Well, thanks! Everyone here is kind and collaborative, so I guess I am thanking in behalf of all contributors! --Nereo Preto 08:15, 11 February 2008 (CST)


If this article is ready for approval we need an editor to place the template back on it. Otherwise, we're close! Keep going! D. Matt Innis 17:25, 22 February 2008 (CST)