Palaeobiology and taphonomy of Lagerstȁtten

Fossils provide critical evidence to investigate the tempo and sequence of character acquisition through clades and allow us to investigate the ecology of entire communities through time. This record is strongly biased towards the preservation of skeletal remains such as shells, bones and teeth. Very rarely though, under exceptional environmental conditions, in deposits termed conservation Lagerstätten, preservation of soft tissues does occur. Evidence provided by the preservation of the soft parts of organisms is of vital importance in attempting to reconstruct ancient life on our planet as it provides a much more complete picture of animal anatomy and communities. The sediments which preserve the nonbiomineralized parts of organisms include some of the world’s most celebrated fossil deposits, such as the Chengjiang biota (China) and the Burgess Shale (Canada).

During my career I have been fortunate to undertake research on several Lagerstȁtten. My main expertise is in the processes of decay (see Experimental Decay) and preservation to determine how carcasses are transformed in to geologically stable materials, and how much original information is lost or modified in that process.

Two review articles on Exceptional Preservation

Gabbott, S. E. January 2006. Exceptional Preservation In: Encyclopedia of Life Science. John Wiley and Sons, Ltd, Chichester, http://www.els.net/DOI10.1038/npg.els.0004141.

Gabbott, S. E. 2005. Life on Earth: Lagerstätten. pp. 307-315. In: R. C. Selley, L. R. M. Cocks, and I. R. Plimer, eds. Encyclopedia of Geology. Elsevier, Oxford.

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