Is taphonomy a fad?
Plotnick, Ray E.
Speyer, Stephen E.
PublisherDeath Decay Disintegration: The Newsletter for Research on Taphonomy
MetadataShow full item record
FROM THE EDITORS: Is taphonomy a fad? Every so often, generally triggered by an unexpected discovery, certain fields of science experience a sudden burst of popularity, often accompanied by major influxes of research funding and publicity. Recent examples are warm super conductors and cold fusion and, in our own field, mass extinctions. Lower intensity "tremors" also occur when new approaches or concepts are applied to existing problems and compete with (or displace) older approaches. Examples include chaos theory, cladistics, and punctuated equilibria. Reactions to these changes are diverse; some research eagerly embrace these new concepts, others are hesitant to get involved with what might turn out to be a fad. Symposia (sometimes rancorous) are held; new journals or newsletters are started and sometimes die a slow and painful death. The field of taphonomy is now undergoing a conceptual and research renaissance (perhaps "resurrection" would be a more apt term). Major symposia were held in 1984, 1986, and 1989; each one with more participants than the one before. Nearly 35 interested researchers attended the first "Friends of Taphonomy" get-together at the Denver GSA. This newsletter is a direct result of that meeting; the interest and caliber of research indicated by your response to our newsletter questionnaire argues against taphonomy as an exhausted fad. Is taphonomy a fad? As the quote above indicates, concern with the adequacy of the fossil record is as old as paleontology itself (indeed, Steno was the first taphonomist). That the fossil record offers a biased view of ancient life is far from novel. It is the realization that the study of fossilization is not simply the study of bias that has launched us into an era of very active research. An extensive, modern literature demonstrates that taphonomic evidence is a rich source of information for sedimentology and paleontology. It is this view, and the interdisciplinary approaches necessary for a proper understanding of taphonomic processes, that we hope to promote with this newsletter. Keep up the good work and let us know your thoughts.