BGR Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe

Preparation techniques, laboratories

Preparation of samples in a paleontological laboratoryPreparation of samples in a paleontological laboratory Source: BGR

Microfossils belong to various animal and plant groups, that mainly lived in the ocean, but also in fresh water or on land. After they died, they were deposited on the sea floor or the floors of rivers, lakes or moors, together with sediment particles. Thus, before the fossils can be analyzed, they first need to be “freed” from sediment

Depending on the shell structure or the skeleton or shell of the organisms, microfossils consist of substances such as calcium carbonate, silica, calcium phosphate or organic material. Thus several laboratories for specific preparation techniques are required:

  • Calcareous microfossils like foraminifers, ostracodes or small remains of macrofauna are usually prepared in the foraminiferal laboratory with water, hydrogen peroxide or other reconnaissance techniques. The remains also contain fossil plants, e.g., megaspores, seeds or wood.

  • Many plant microorganisms such as dinozysts, pollen and spores (palynomorphs) have an organic wall. These fossils are extracted in the palynological laboratory, predominantly by using hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid.

  • Coccolithophores and remains of very small organisms with calcareous skeletons belong to the calcareous nannoplankton. They are processed in the calcareous nannoplankton laboratory using an alkaline solution made of ammonia and calcium carbonate saturated, deionised water.

  • The scanning electron microscope is very important for paleontological work, as paleontologists can take high-resolution pictures for detailed examinations and quantitative analyses of microfossils.

Some practical advices:


Dr. Jochen Erbacher
Phone: +49-(0)511-643-2795
Fax: +49-(0)511-643-3663

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