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Home / Palaeobotanical Tools / Cellulose (Acetate) Peel Technique

Preparation and Conservation
Managing Fossil Collections
Transfer Technique
Palynological Preparation Techniques
Latex Casts
Photography and Scanning
Imaging Fossils Using UV-Light (Black-Light Photography)
Fluorescence Microscopy and Fluorescence Microspectroscopy
Scanning- (SEM) and Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM)
Digital Cameras on the Microscope
Cameras With Focus Bracketing or Built-In Focus Stacking
Focus Stacking (Photography, Extended Depth of Field)
Superresolution (SR)
High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDR)
Image Processing
Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM)
Microtomography (CT Scanning, XTM) including Synchrotron X-ray Tomographic Microscopy (SRXTM)
Raman Spectroscopy
Writing, Translating and Drawing
Making Thin Sections

! Chemotaxonomy and Chemometric Palaeobotany@

Cellulose (Acetate) Peel Technique


! A.E. Adams et al. (2014): Atlas of Sedimentary Rocks under the Microscope. In PDF. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
See likewise here.
Including practical aspects of slide preparation.
Note picture 217. Thin section of a coal ball.

B.A. Atkinson (2020): Fossil evidence for a Cretaceous rise of the mahogany family. Free access, American Journal of Botany, 107: 139-147. See also here (Science Daily), and there (PDF file, PhysOrg).
"... The fruit described in this study ... was sectioned longitudinally ... and then in cross section using the cellulose acetate peel technique ..."

B. Barnes and H. Duerden (1931): On the preparation of cellulose films of fossil plants. In PDF, Annals of Botany. See also here (abstract).

Henry Barwood, Mineral Resources Section, Indiana Geological Survey, Bloomington, Indiana: The mineralogy and origin of coal balls.
Now available via Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

R.W. Baxendale (1979): Plant-bearing coprolites from North-American Pennsylvanian coal balls. PDF file, Paleontology, 22: 537–548.
The link is to a version archived by the Internet Archive´s Wayback Machine.
See also here.

C.K. Boyce et al. (2009): X-ray photoelectron emission spectromicroscopic analysis of arborescent lycopsid cell wall composition and Carboniferous coal ball preservation. PDf file, International Journal of Coal Geology.
This expired link is now available through the Internet Archive´s Wayback Machine.

M.E. Chrpa et al. (2023): A marine origin of coal balls in the Midland and Illinois basins, USA. Open access, Communications Earth & Environment, 4.
"... Despite their importance to paleobotany, the salinity of coal-ball peat remains controversial. Pennsylvanian coal balls from the Midland and Illinois basins contain echinoderms and early high-magnesium calcite cement
[...] Coal balls likely formed in the marine-freshwater mixing zone ..."

C.J. Cleal and B.A. Thomas (1999): Plant Fossils: The History of Land Vegetation Fossils Illustrated. In PDF, (Boydell & Brewer Ltd).
! Worth checking out: Chapter Ten, "Highlights of Palaeobotanical Study", starting on PDF page 130.
! Note especially: "Coal balls", starting on PDF page 135.
See also here (Amazon) and there (Google books).

L.L. Elliott et al. (2006): Beardia vancouverensis gen. et sp. nov. (Juglandaceae): permineralized fruits from the Eocene of British Columbia. Free access, American Journal of Botany, 93: 557-565.

! I.H. Escapa et al. (2010): Modifications of the transfer technique for studying complex plant structures.

Fossil Hunters:
! Cellulose Acetate Peel Technique.

A. Füsun et al. (2005): Acetate peel technique: a rapid way of preparing sequential surface replicas of dental hard tissues for microscopic examination. In PDF.

K.P. Giebel (1984): Plant Fossils in the Laboratory. PDF file. Website hosted by The Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE).
Now recovered from the Internet Archive´s Wayback Machine.

O.R. Green (2013): A Manual of Practical Laboratory and Field Techniques in Palaeobiology. Google books.

! F Grímsson et al. (2021): How to extract and analyze pollen from internal organs and exoskeletons of fossil insects? Open access, STAR protocols, 2.

Elizabeth J. Hermsen et al. (2009): Morphology and ecology of the Antarcticycas plant. PDF file, Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 153: 108-123.

F. Herrera et al. (2022): A permineralized Early Cretaceous lycopsid from China and the evolution of crown clubmosses. In PDF, New Phytologist, 233: 2310-2322.
See also here.

Steven Holland, UGA Stratigraphy Lab, University of Georgia, Athens, GA:
! Acetate Peels.

J. Holmes and J. Lopez (1986): The disappearing peel technique: an improved method for studying permineralized plant tissues. PDF file, Palaeontology.
Now recovered from the Internet Archive´s Wayback Machine.

E.C. Jeffrey (1917): Petrified Coals and Their Bearing on the Problem of the Origin of Coals. PDF file, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 3: 206–211.

! S.R. Lakeram et al. (2023): Review of the cellulose acetate peel method and the physical and digital curation of coal balls. Free access, Applications in Plant Sciences, 11.
Note figure 2: The stages of the cellulose acetate peel method, displaying the transfer of material from a sectioned coal ball to acetate paper.
Figure 3: A flowchart summarizing the cellulose acetate peel method.
Figure 5: A flowchart summarizing mounting a peel onto a glass slide.

S.A. Little et al. (2004): Duabanga-like leaves from the Middle Eocene Princeton chert and comparative leaf histology of Lythraceae sensu lato. Open access, American Journal of Botany, 91: 1126-1139.

Z.-J. Liu and X. Wang (2016): A perfect flower from the Jurassic of China. In PDF, Historical Biology, 28: 707-719. See also here (Abstract).

! B.K. Long et al. (2022): Correcting the sizes of fossil features measured in cellulose acetate peels for drying-related peel shrinkage. Free access, Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 305.

Department of Geoscience, University of Wisconsin, Madison:
Paleontological Experiences for Science Teachers (funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute). Hands-on training in vertebrate paleontology, using fieldwork and laboratory work. Go to: Acetate Peel and diagrams.
These expired links are now available through the Internet Archive´s Wayback Machine.

! P. Moisan (2012): The study of cuticular and epidermal features in fossil plant impressions using silicone replicas for scanning electron microscopy. In PDF, Palaeontologia Electronica.

! B. Muddiman et al. (2020): Paleontologic Data Fossilized on IBM 8” Floppies. Behind the scenes, University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley.
! Don't miss the video clips "Fossil Data Part 1 and 2".
All about carboniferous coal balls and an adventurous action in computer archaeology, reconstructing data from more than 360 vintage 1970s 8-inch floppy disks.

! L. Muriale et al. (1996): Fatality due to acute fluoride poisoning following dermal contact with hydrofluoric acid in a palynology laboratory. Free access, Journal of the British Occupational Hygiene Society, 40: 705-710.
! "... The fatality described below highlights the potential for relatively small quantities of concentrated hydrofluoric acid to produce acute systemic toxicity and it is clear that laboratory personnel underestimated the risks ..."

T. Perkins (1976): Textures and Conditions of Formation of Middle Pennsylvanian Coal Balls, Central United States. In PDF, The University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions.

K.C. Pfeiler et al. (2018): An Early Devonian permineralized rhyniopsid from the Battery Point Formation of Gaspé (Canada). In PDF, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 187: 292–302. See also here.

W.A. DiMichele (2020): Tom L. Phillips 1931-2018. In PDF, Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences. See also here.

! T.L. Phillips et al. (1976): Fossil peat of the Illinois basin: a guide to the study of coal balls of Pennsylvanian age. In PDF, Geoscience education, 11.

Charles A. Price et al. (2011): Leaf Extraction and Analysis Framework Graphical User Interface: Segmenting and Analyzing the Structure of Leaf Veins and Areoles. Plant Physiol., 155: 236-245.

! Dondi Ratliff, How to Use Acetate Peels in Paleobotany.
This expired link is available through the Internet Archive´s Wayback Machine.

E. Reeves et al. (2023): Historic palaeobotanical collection reveals in situ microspores and pollen from Early Carboniferous (Tournaisian) ovules from the Ballagan Formation of Scotland. Free access, Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 308.
"... The resultant 67 photomicrographs were photo-stitched into one large image
[...] Single microspores and pollen within the ovule were photographed under oil at ×100 using multiple images at different focus depths and then Z-stacked ..."

J.W. Ropes (1984): Procedures for Preparing Acetate Peels ... In PDF, Marine Fisheries Review.

G.W. Rothwell et al. (2022): Large Permineralized Seeds in the Jurassic of Haida Gwaii, Western Canada: Exploring the Mode and Tempo of Cycad Evolution. Abstract, International Journal of Plant Sciences.
"... Fossil seed specimens are studied from external morphology and serially sectioned by the classic cellulose acetate peel technique ..."
! "... Results suggest that modern pollination and postpollination biology and the two contrasting modes of cycad seed germination evolved during the Mesozoic but that crown group cycad species may not have appeared until the Cenozoic. ..."

G.W. Rothwell and R.A. Stockey (2002): Anatomically preserved Cycadeoidea (Cycadeoidaceae), with a reevaluation of systematic characters for the seed cones of Bennettitales. Free access, American Journal of Botany, 89: 1447–1458.

! Gar W. Rothwell, Department of Environmental and Plant Biology Ohio University, Athens: Paleobotany. This course covers the evolutionary history of plants as revealed by the fossil record. Go to: Cutting a Coal Ball, and Coal Ball Peel Technique.
Snapshots taken by the Internet Archive´s Wayback Machine.

Paul Rowley, MUCEP, Macquarie University Centre for Ecostratigraphy and Palaeobiology, Sydney, NSW, Australia: Safety Techniques for Palaeontological Procedures.
Now provided by the Internet Archive´s Wayback Machine.

A. Savoretti et al. (2018): Grimmiaceae in the Early Cretaceous: Tricarinella crassiphylla gen. et sp. nov. and the value of anatomically preserved bryophytes. Free access, Annals of Botany, 121: 1275–1286.
"... One fossil moss gametophyte preserved in a carbonate concretion was studied in serial sections prepared using the cellulose acetate peel technique. ..."

! Andrew C. Scott et al. (2009): Scanning Electron Microscopy and Synchrotron Radiation X-Ray Tomographic Microscopy of 330 Million Year Old Charcoalified Seed Fern Fertile Organs. PDF file, Microsc. Microanal., 15: 166-173.
See figure 4, SEM of charcoalified pteridosperm ovule from the mid-Mississippian (Carboniferous). See also here.

! A.C. Scott and G. Rex (1985): The formation and significance of Carboniferous coal balls. PDF file, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London, B, 311: 123-137.
See also here, and there.

L.J. Seyfullah et al. (2010): Resolving the systematic and phylogenetic position of isolated ovules: a case study on a new genus from the Permian of China. In PDF, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 164: 84–108. See also here.

! R. Serbet et al. (2013): Cunninghamia taylorii sp. nov., a Structurally Preserved Cupressaceous Conifer from the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Horseshoe Canyon Formation of Western North America. In PDF, International Journal of Plant Sciences, 174: 471-488. See also here.

G.W.K. Shelton et al. (2016): Krassiloviella limbelloides gen. et sp. nov.: Additional Diversity in the Hypnanaean Moss Family Tricostaceae (Valanginian, Vancouver Island, British Columbia). In PDF, Int. J. Plant Sci., 177: 792–808. See also here (abstract).
Fossils are preserved anatomically in carbonate concretions and studied in serial sections prepared using the cellulose acetate peel technique.

F.D. Siewers and T.L. Phillips (2015): Petrography and microanalysis of Pennsylvanian coal-ball concretions (Herrin Coal, Illinois Basin, USA): Bearing on fossil plant preservation and coal-ball origins. Abstract, Sedimentary Geology, 329.

T.N. Taylor et al. (2011): The advantage of thin section preparations over acetate peels in the study of late Paleozoic fungi and other microorganisms. In PDF, Palaios. See also here (abstract), and there.

Shi-Jun Wang et al. (2011): Cycad Wood from the Lopingian (Late Permian) of Southern China: Shuichengoxylon tianii gen. et sp. nov. PDF file, Int. J. Plant Sci., 172: 725-734.

! Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Coal ball.

J.P. Wilson et al. (2023): Physiological selectivity and plant–environment feedbacks during Middle and Late Pennsylvanian plant community transitions. Open access, Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 535: 361-382.
Note figure 1: Images of Late Carboniferous plant stems permineralized in coal balls.
"... we examine the vascular anatomy and physiology of key lineages of Pennsylvanian plants: the sphenopsids, tree ferns, cordaitaleans, medullosans, lycophytes and extrabasinal stem group coniferophytes. Using scanning electron and light microscopy of fossilized anatomy, we provide new data on these plants’ vascular systems, quantifying their physiological capacity and drought resistance ..."

M.A. Wilson and T.J. Palmer (1989): Preparation of Acetate Peels. In PDF.

Wooster Geologists.
A blog from faculty and students of the Department of Geology at The College of Wooster, USA.
! Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: How to make brilliant acetate peels, with a Jurassic coral example (by Mark Wilson, 2015).

E.L. Zodrow and J.A. D´angelo (2013): Compression map: Improved means for studying Carboniferous foliage. Atlantic Geology, 49.

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