Summary

Fossils, the buried remains of organic life, are divided into two types: body and trace fossils. The body fossils include bones, shells, and other organic remains; trace fossils consist of tracks, trackways, and other impressions in the form of molds and casts.

Fossilization is a process that occurs after the organism dies. It consists of burial, and commonly involves a variety of types of replacement, in which the original organic and mineral material of the once-living organism is naturally replaced by other minerals while buried.

Obtaining fossils, particularly dinosaur fossils, requires rigorous training and preparation, along with perhaps a bit of educated guessing. Four steps are involved: planning, prospecting, collecting, and laboratory preparation and curation. The planning ranges from figuring out where to look, to getting the legal permission to carry out the study, to outfitting an expedition properly to safely meet its goals. The prospecting requires a well-trained eye, always enhanced by experience. Collecting is a process designed to bring delicate fossils safely back to where they can be prepared, which involves cleaning, reconstruction, and protection. Curation makes it possible for fossils to be safely stored on the long term, and to be accessible to researchers and to an interested public.

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