Identifying Major Fossil Features
A fossil sample will often have one or more characteristics that can help you to narrow down your options to determine what type of animal or plant you are looking at. You will be using a fossil identification flow chart in Labs 6 through 8 which depends upon being able to recognize certain features. The samples in Exercises 5.3 – 5.5 will help you understand these characteristics.
What To Do
Some animals live in a colony. A colony is composed of many identical single-celled or multi-celled individuals where individuals live in close proximity to each other and probably would not survive as single individuals on their own. Non-colonial or solitary organisms can live as an individual and do not need to be part of a colony.
Inspect the fossil specimens in Sample Set 3 (images available below), paying special attention to the features you are asked to examine. Answer questions (a) to (d) as you work through Sample Set 3.
Note: If the image slide-decks fail to load, click the sample title to open the slide deck in a new window.
Sample Set 3 & Questions
A. Sample FL1: Corals
Specimens of Sample FL1 can be picked up but please handle them with care.
Notice the tightly packed framework of individual pockets. These were where individuals of these colonial organisms lived. These are samples of a recent species of coral.
a. What type of mineral do these organisms use in their skeletal framework? Hint: Look back at the Starting Materials section.
B. Sample FL2: Favosites Coral
Please do not touch Sample FL2.
This sample is an extinct species of coral originating in the Ordovician Period (approximately 450 million years ago.
b. What type of mineral makes up the skeletal framework?
c. What benefit(s) do individuals gain by being part of a colony?
C. Sample FDA1: Rugose Coral
Specimens of Sample FDA1 can be picked up but please handle them with care.
This is also a coral species. However, it has an entirely different life habit. Identify where the coral animal actually lived. (Click here to explore a 3D model of a similar organism.)