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LSUMNS fossil types

How are fossil molds and casts made?

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Hunting for Fossils
How are fossil molds and casts made?
An LSU Museum of Natural Science presentation to
accompany the activity
What is a fossil?
• Fossil comes from the Latin fossilis
meaning ‘dug up’.
• They are defined as the remains,
molds, or traces of plants or animals
that lived a long time ago.
• Usually preserved in sedimentary
rocks such as sandstones, shale or
limestone.
Types of fossils
• Plant remains
• Animal remains
• Coal, oil, gas (aka fossil fuels)
• Trace fossils (including borings,
footprints, molds, casts, coprolites)
How are they formed?
• Phase 1- Death
– Something dies
• Phase 2- Deposition and Burial
– It may be washed into a river or lake, but is usually
quickly buried by sediments
• Phase 3- Replacement/Remineralization
– Minerals from the surrounding ground seep into
the organism slowly replacing the organic material
and virtually turning the bones into ‘rock’.
Fossil types
Preserved- Fossils that are unaltered and the original
organism stays relatively intact. Soft as well as
hard parts can be preserved. (Insect preserved in
hardened tree sap- amber)
Replacement- An organism’s hard parts are replaced with
minerals like calcite, silica, pyrite, or iron
Permineralization (petrification)- Fossil-type most people
recognize. After the original hard parts are buried,
water that seeps through the sediment passes
through the bone. The water often dissolves the
bone and replaces it with mineral deposits
ultimately changing it into stone.
Carbonization- Only carbon remains of the specimen-
other elements such as hydrogen and nitrogen are
removed.
Impression- These fossils are made by organisms that are
left in sediments.
Impressions
Impression fossils are divided into 3
categories:
I. Imprints
II. Mold and casts
III. Trace fossils

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LSUMNS fossil types

  • 1. Hunting for Fossils How are fossil molds and casts made? An LSU Museum of Natural Science presentation to accompany the activity
  • 2. What is a fossil? • Fossil comes from the Latin fossilis meaning ‘dug up’. • They are defined as the remains, molds, or traces of plants or animals that lived a long time ago. • Usually preserved in sedimentary rocks such as sandstones, shale or limestone.
  • 3. Types of fossils • Plant remains • Animal remains • Coal, oil, gas (aka fossil fuels) • Trace fossils (including borings, footprints, molds, casts, coprolites)
  • 4. How are they formed? • Phase 1- Death – Something dies • Phase 2- Deposition and Burial – It may be washed into a river or lake, but is usually quickly buried by sediments • Phase 3- Replacement/Remineralization – Minerals from the surrounding ground seep into the organism slowly replacing the organic material and virtually turning the bones into ‘rock’.
  • 5. Fossil types Preserved- Fossils that are unaltered and the original organism stays relatively intact. Soft as well as hard parts can be preserved. (Insect preserved in hardened tree sap- amber) Replacement- An organism’s hard parts are replaced with minerals like calcite, silica, pyrite, or iron Permineralization (petrification)- Fossil-type most people recognize. After the original hard parts are buried, water that seeps through the sediment passes through the bone. The water often dissolves the bone and replaces it with mineral deposits ultimately changing it into stone. Carbonization- Only carbon remains of the specimen- other elements such as hydrogen and nitrogen are removed. Impression- These fossils are made by organisms that are left in sediments.
  • 6. Impressions Impression fossils are divided into 3 categories: I. Imprints II. Mold and casts III. Trace fossils
  • 7. Imprints These are impressions of thin organisms such as feathers, leaves, or fish that have fallen into soft sediment before it hardened. As the organism decomposes it leaves a carbon ‘film’ of the organisms on the rock.
  • 8. Molds and casts Mold When an organism dies it is covered with sediment, decomposes slowly and when completely decayed it leaves a cavity in the rock that retains the exact shape and size of the organism. Cast When a cavity in rock is later filled with sediments and these sediments take the shape of the mold. It will look just like the outside of the original organism. (Note: Fossil casts are rare)
  • 9. Two types of molds Internal mold- imprints of the inside of a fossil. They are produced when an organism such as a shell, is filled with sediment that becomes cemented and then the shell dissolves away. External mold- imprints of the outside of a fossil. For example, if the original fossil shell was convex, the external mold will be concave.
  • 10. Trace fossils Tracks or marks left by ancient organisms that have been preserved in sedimentary rocks. They show that the organisms were in the area. They include: – Tracks or footprints – Trials or paths by a moving body – Burrows – Coprolites – Gastroliths – Body imprints
  • 11. Reference materials Baylor, Byrd. (1980). If You are a Hunter of Fossils. Illustrated by Peter Parnall. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. (ISBN 0-684- 16419-1). Goldish, Meish. (1989). What is a Fossil? Illustrated by Ivan Dieruf. Milwaukee: Raintree Publishers. (ISBN 0-8172-3535-3).