'Shell shake – survival of the toughest; why is the fossil record incomplete?'
Pupils deliberately smash a variety of seashells to see which ones are strong enough to remain recognisable, and which ones are so weak that they would leave little or no evidence of their existence. This leads pupils to realise that the fossil record is often biased. Many organisms are destroyed by being eaten or by being broken up into tiny fragments by moving water, or by processes of lithification of the host sediment. This lesson demonstrates that a slab of apparently well-preserved fossils may not present a true record of all that lived there, so caution is needed in reconstructing the ancient environment in its entirety.
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