Fossils and time: Fossils 2.2.1
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|(a)||fossil as the preserved remains of living organisms or the traces of those organisms
||To include the preservation of body fossils by replacement and the formation of trace fossils (burrows, tracks and trails)
|(b)||the nature and the reliability of the fossil record and the morphological definition of species
||To include taphonomic processes which produce life and death assemblages, preservation potential M2.10, M2.12 shape analysis
the use and interpretation of fossils as palaeoenvironmental indicators for:
(i) trace fossils to provide information on the behaviour of the organism that formed them and the palaeoenvironment
(ii) body fossils to provide information on the behaviour of the fossilised organism and the palaeoenvironment.
To include dwelling, protection and feeding structures and qualitative interpretation of locomotion
To include skeleton thickness, robustness, ornament, sensory organs and geopetals
A topic that the majority of learners will find accessible, it relates to previous studies in science and other biological sciences and also may be an area of general interest to learners. Learners will need to consider how body fossils and trace fossils form, here there may be opportunity for modelling in the lab. Learners will also need to appreciate the reliability of the fossil record, considering the massive amount of evidence it provides whilst appreciating its very incomplete nature and the unlikeliness of a fossil ever being preserved. Further on from this learners will use the fossil evidence to begin to reconstruct past environments and link fossil evidence with sedimentary evidence.
Common misconceptions or difficulties students may have:
The most challenging idea could be taking on board the nature and reliability of the fossil record, learners may need to think about the bias that exists in preservation in different environments and different fossil types. They may also need to think about how scientist’s ideas about fossil groups have evolved over time as critical pieces of evidence are found.
Geologists can often only consider the processes of mineralisation that form fossils while palaeobiologists may only consider the biological processes that occur after death. Taphonomy is the science which considers all the processes that act upon an organism from death to its discovery as a fossil who study fossils: biological, physical and chemical. By considering the overlap between processes allows palaeontologist to get greater insight from studying fossils in context.
Conceptual links to other areas of the specification – useful ways to approach this topic to set students up for topics later in the course:
This topic has some links with module 4.2 geochronology where evidence helps to provide an order of events and zone fossils are used. Later in the course in module 7, fossils evidence is analysed in detail in evolution and applied palaeontology 7.1.2, mass extinctions 7.1.3 and Lagerstatten deposits 7.2.1.
A story board is a technique to summarise and plan a video, animation or visual presentation. It done using a sequential series of linked sketches and text. This approach should be familiar to students from English or Drama.
Students research fossil formation for a specific sequence (local or a lagerstätte, say) and then design a six frame graphic presentation summarising the formation of their fossil.
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