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Natural preservation of the morphology and to some degree the chemistry as well as what had been the behavior of no longer living organisms .
Fossilization requires a combination of failure of the remains of an organism to fully decompose in combination with separation of those remains away from factors that otherwise tend to lead to such decomposition. This includes particularly the atmosphere.
Long-term preservation typically occurs following some means of burying. Short-term preservation prior to burial tends to be a function of weather conditions: Cold, dry conditions away from scavenger animals results in slower decomposition versus warm and wet conditions along with the presence of scavengers.
Important in addition is the timing of burial, with death occurring as a consequence of deep, anaerobic burial, such as via mud slides including lahars, providing great potential for avoidance of decomposition.
See fossils and fossil record for further discussion of the basics underlying how fossilization occurs.
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