Experimental Decay

Laboratory-based decay experiments greatly aid our interpretation of fossil remains in several ways:

  • nearly all exceptionally preserved fossils have undergone some degree of decay so that a partially decayed organism is a more useful anatomical comparator than a living one when interpreting fossil morphology.
  • Fishwhen studying large-scale variations in organism diversity and ecology it is vital to understand the biasing effects produced by the processes that transform a carcass in to a fossil. In a nutshell, are absences from a fossil assemblage real or a response to taphonomic filtering?
  • understanding the physical factors that influence fossilization such as temperature, salinity, porosity and the sediment composition can elucidate the role that different environmental settings may have on preservation.
  • an understanding of the physical, chemical and biological factors inherent in fossilization reveal which taxa, or tissue types, are likely to be preserved in different conditions.

I have worked with Mark Purnell, Rob Sansom and Duncan Murdock on NERC-funded research projects undertaking experimental decay.

To find out more about each project click the links below:

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