occurs when an animal dies in a very dry environment.
out of the tissues slowing the process of decay.
The drying process may also reduce the probability of scavenging.
This process is similar to human mummification. In fact, some
authors use the term mummification to describe this process.
Ground sloths preserved through desiccation have been found
& Miller, 1998, p. 15). Moa remains preserved through desiccation
have been found in New Zealand (Walker & Ward, 2002, p.
13). Many of these specimens have been found in dry caves.
Naturally mummified insects have been found in association
with Pleistocene mammals
frozen in tundra permafrost. Insects preserved through desiccation
have also been found in Egyptian mummies and the stomachs
of Eocene aged bats (Martinez-Delclos & Jarzembowski,
is a preserved remain considered a fossil? Walker and Ward
(2002) do not consider organisms preserved through desiccation
to be fossils because they are only temporarily spared
from decay (p. 13). Grimaldi and Engel (2005) point out
include the idea that the remains must be of a species
that has become naturally extinct. They argue that
knowledge is problematic. Grimaldi and Engel suggest the
following practical definition,
"...a fossil is the remains or workings of any species,
living or extinct, that have been naturally preserved
for several thousand years or more (p. 62). Many definitions
have time limits, which are set somewhat arbitrarily. This
definition is similar to the one we have adopted for our
website. Under this definition desiccation may be considered
a fossilization process.
there is evidence that insects in amber are preserved through
dessication. Insects preserved in amber appear to be hollow.
Presumably, bacteria present when the organism died decayed
the internal organs. However, studies have
revealed that some specimens
internal organs. Studies using scanning electron
microscopes as well as transmission electron microscopes
have revealed internal organ preservation in Baltic amber
spiders and gnats. It seems that many orangisms are preserved
through mummification. In the process of mummification,
dehydration results in up to a 30% decrease in volume of
tissues. The decrease in tissue volume gives the organisms
the appearance of an empty husk (Selden & Nudds, 2004,
F.A. & Miller, D.S. (1998). Discovering Fossils:
How to Find and Identify Remains of the Prehistoric Past.
Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books.
D. & Engel, M.S., (2005). Evolution of the Insects.
New York: Cambridge University Press.
Martinez-Delclos, X., & Jarzembowski, E. (2000). Fossil insects
in rocks. Meganeura Website. http://www.ub.edu/dpep/meganeura/52inrocks.htm
P. & Nudds, J. (2004). Evolution of Fossil Ecosystems.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
C. & Ward D. (2002). Smithsonian Handbooks: Fossils.
New York: Dorling Kindersley