Extraction Techniques for Phosphatic Fossils

  • Owen R. Green


The extraction and preparation of phosphatic preserved macro and microfossil material requires the careful use of acidic solutions in controlled etching techniques. In the area of micropalaeontology the application is widely known in relation to the extraction of conodont elements (e.g. Collinson 1963, 1965, Stone 1987) and other phosphatic microfossils (Bengtson 1977). Acids used in the extraction of conodonts are familiar to vertebrate and invertebrate palaeontologists in the preparation of phosphatized bones and shell material respectively. Their use in the extraction of large fossils creates additional problems in that exposed surfaces must be protected from contact with fresh acid (Converse 1989).


Black Shale Acetic Acid Solution Liquid Separation Butyl Methacrylate Calcium Acetate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. ALLMAN, M and LAWRENCE, D. F. 1972. Geological Laboratory Techniques. Blandford, ( London ). 1–335 p.Google Scholar
  2. BECKMANN, H. 1952. The use of acetic acids in micropaleontology. Micropaleontologist. 6, (3), 39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. BENGTSON, S. 1977. Early Cambrian button-shaped phosphatic microfossils from the Siberian Platform. Palaeontology. 20, (4), 751–762.Google Scholar
  4. BELL, W. C. 1948. Acetic acid etching technique applied to Cambrian brachiopods. Journal of Paleontology. 22, (1), 101–102.Google Scholar
  5. BRASIER, M. D. 1980. Microfossils. Allen and Unwin (London). xii + 193p.Google Scholar
  6. CHARLTON, D. S. 1969. An improved technique for heavy liquid separation of conodonts. Journal of Paleontology. 43, (2), 590–592.Google Scholar
  7. COLLINSON, C. 1963. Techniques for collecting and processing conodonts. Illinois State Geological Survey. Circular 343, 1–16.Google Scholar
  8. COLLINSON, C. 1965. Conodonts, pp 94–102: In; B. Kummel and D. Raup (eds), Handbook of Paleontological Techniques. W. H. Freeman and Co., ( San Francisco). xiii + 852 p.Google Scholar
  9. CONVERSE, H. H. 1989. Handbook of paleo-preparation techniques (2nd edition, revised by R. W. McCarty ). Florida Paleontological Society. v + 109 p.Google Scholar
  10. COOPER, G. A and WHITTINGTON, H. B. 1965. Use of acids in preparation of fossils, pp 294–300: In; B. Kummel and D. Raup (eds), Handbook of Paleontological Techniques. W. H. Freeman and Co., ( San Francisco). xiii + 852 p.Google Scholar
  11. DOW, V. E. 1960. Magnetic separation of conodonts. Journal of Paleontology. 34, (4), 738–743.Google Scholar
  12. DOW, V. E. 1965. Magnetic separation of conodonts, pp 263–267: In; B. Kummel and D. Raup (eds), Handbook of Paleontological Techniques. W. H. Freeman and Co., ( San Francisco). xiii + 852 p.Google Scholar
  13. ETHINGTON, R. L and AUSTIN, R. L. 1993. Note on the use of hydrofluoric acid for the recovery of conodonts from Ordovician cherts in the Southern Uplands of Scotland and the significance of the conodonts. Journal of Micropalaeontology. 12, (2), 194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. EWING, J. F. 1950. A new technique for removing bones from limestone breccia. Antiquity. 24, 102–105.Google Scholar
  15. FORD, P. B and LEE, D. E. 1997. Note on a new method of using hydrofluoric acid for the study of conodonts in cherts in the Torlesse terrane, New Zealand. Journal of Micropalaeontology. 16, (2), 158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. GRIFFITH, J. 1954. A technique for the removal of skeletal remains from bone-bed. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association. 65, (2), 123–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. GUNNELL, F. H and MOREY, P. S. 1932. The preparation of conodonts for study. Micropaleontology Bulletin. 3, 77–78.Google Scholar
  18. HIGGINS, A. C and SPINNER, E. G. 1969. Techniques for the extraction of selected microfossils. Geology–Journal of the Association of Teachers in Geology. 1, 12–28.Google Scholar
  19. JEPPSSON, L, FREDHOLM, and MATTIASSON, B. 1985. Acetic acid and phosphatic fossils–a warning. Journal of Paleontology. 59, (4), 952–956.Google Scholar
  20. JEPPSSON, L and ANEHUS, R. 1995. A buffered formic acid technique for conodont extraction. Journal of Paleontology. 69, (4), 790–794.Google Scholar
  21. LEIGGI, P and MAY, P. J. (eds). 1995. Vertebrate Paleontological Techniques,Volume 1. Cambridge University Press. 368p.Google Scholar
  22. MUIR-WOOD, H. M and OWEN, E. F. 1952. The use of acetic acid in developing brachiopod shells. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association. 63, (4), 313–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. NORBY, R. D. 1972. Techniques for the study of conodont assemblages. Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs. 4, 340–341.Google Scholar
  24. RIXON, A. E. 1949. The use of acetic and formic acids in the preparation of fossil vertebrates. Museum Journal. 49, 116–117.Google Scholar
  25. RIXON, A. E. 1976. Fossil animal remains - their preparation and conservation. Athone Press, ( London). vi + 304 p.Google Scholar
  26. SASS, D. B. 1963. Controlled acid preparation of fossils. Journal of Paleontology. 37, (5), 1129.Google Scholar
  27. SAVAGE, N. M. 1988. The use of sodium polytungstate for conodont separations. Journal of Micropalaeontology. 7, (1), 39–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. SIMES, I. E. 1973. Report on conodont techniques and research. New Zealand Geological Survey Paleontological Reports. Report Rp1. 14 p.Google Scholar
  29. SIMES, J. E. 1977. Extraction of insoluble microfossils from limestone. New Zealand Geological Survey, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Report NZGS R82. 18 p.Google Scholar
  30. STONE, J. 1987. Review of investigative techniques used in the study of conodonts, pp 17–34: In; R. L. Austin (ed) Conodonts: Investigative Techniques and Applications. Ellis Norwood Ltd, ( Chichester ). 1–422.Google Scholar
  31. TOOMBS, H. A. 1948. The use of acetic acid in the development of vertebrate fossils. Museum Journal. 48, 54–55.Google Scholar
  32. TOOMBS, H. A and RIXON, A. E. 1950. The use of plastics in the transfer method of preparing fossils. Museum Journal. 50, 105–107.Google Scholar
  33. TOOMBS, H. A and RIXON, A. E. 1959. The use of acids in the preparation of vertebrate fossils. Curator. 2, 304–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. VARKER, W. J. 1967. Conodonts of the genus Apatognathus Branson and Mehl from the Yoredale Series of the North of England. Palaeontology. 10, (1), 124–141.Google Scholar
  35. VON BITTER, P. H and MILLAR-CAMPBELL. 1984. The use of “spikes” in monitoring the effectiveness of phosphatic microfossil recovery. Journal of Paleontology. 58, (5), 1193–1195.Google Scholar
  36. ZIEGLER, W, LINDSTROM and McTAVISH, R. 1971. Monochloracetic acid and conodonts–a warning. Nature. 230, 584–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Owen R. Green 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Owen R. Green
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of OxfordHolt, NorfolkUK

Personalised recommendations