Normally, only the hard parts of animals and plants - shell, bone, teeth and wood - are preserved as fossils. However, every now and then conditions permit the preservation of soft parts and create treasure houses of information for palaeontologists. Sometimes, completely soft creatures such as jellyfish or worms are discovered and occasionally detail such as feathers, skin texture or (rarely) original colour is found, giving shape to creatures otherwise known only from skeletons or carapaces. In some cases, the fossils preserve details so fine - individual muscle fibres, for instance - they can only be seen with an electron microscope. Preservation of this quality is referred to as 'the Medusa effect'.
Fossil hunting is enjoyed by amateurs and professionals alike. In fact, palaeontology is one of the few sciences where amateurs have made - and continue to make - important new discoveries.
A Lagerstätte (German: [ˈlaːɡɐʃtɛtə], from Lager 'storage' Stätte 'place'; plural Lagerstätten) is a sedimentary deposit that exhibits extraordinary fossils with exceptional preservation—sometimes including preserved soft tissues. These formations may have resulted from carcass burial in an anoxic environment with minimal bacteria, thus delaying decomposition. Lagerstätten span geological time from the Cambrian period to the present. Worldwide, some of the best examples of near-perfect fossilization are the Cambrian Maotianshan shales and Burgess Shale, the Devonian Hunsrück Slates, the Jurassic Solnhofen limestone, the Carboniferous Mazon Creek and the Cretaceous Yixian Formation localities.
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