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SCIENCE FILE | I Didn't Know That

May 02, 1996

Q: How is wood petrified?

A: Many dissolved minerals can replace the wood of trees by seeping into it to replace some or all of the organic material that is taken away by the fluids. This step-by-step or cell-by-cell substitution produces petrified wood, literally turning the wood to stone. The process may take place over periods ranging from decades to millennia. The same mechanism also produces the fossilization of bones, explaining why isolated dinosaur bones are very heavy. The most common minerals in petrified wood include chalcedony quartz and opal. In the Colorado Plateau, uranium-bearing minerals are a common ingredient as well.

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