[Coral-List] What is a fossil coral?

Markus Bertling bertlin at uni-muenster.de
Fri Jul 11 06:23:01 EDT 2003

Hi all,
Andy Bruckner asked:
> I am seeking a workable definition for a fossil coral
I don't know the report by Tessier & Scoffin (at least the latter
certainly an authority in his field) but to my mind the easiest way to
distinguish a _clearly_ fossil coral from fairly recent (subfossil) reef
rock is to look at the pore volume of the coral skeletons:

open (visible) pores = +/- recent
pore volume filled with solid sediment or crystals = fossil.

Nobody knows what exactly the term fossil means (defined by age, by
preservation, by burial or lithification???) and the boundary is
impossible to draw theoretically, let alone in practice.

With the proposal above, certain extremely well-preserved fossil corals
would erroneously be considered as recent (bad for us palaeontologists
working on them) but this is not as bad as leaving a hole for illegal
trade. As a rough guess, at least 95% of all pre-Holocene reef builders
(corals, sponges) have very little pore volume within their skeletons.
My colleagues working on the other 5% would have to go through more
customs paperwork probably but those few should understand it's for a good
thing... ;-)
Best wishes,
                      Markus Bertling, Ph.D.
                 Museum Curator and Collection Manager
            Geologisch-Palaeontologisches Institut und Museum
                          Pferdegasse 3
                        D- 48143 Muenster
markus.bertling at uni-muenster.de         fax: ..49 - 251 - 83 248 91
                                      phone: ..49 - 251 - 83 239 42

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