(from Greek: παλαιό (palaio)
, "old, ancient"; όν (on)
, "being"; and logos
, "speech, thought") is the study of prehistoric
life forms on Earth through the examination of fossils
This includes the study of body fossils
, tracks (ichnites
, cast-off parts, fossilised faeces
and chemical residues.
Modern paleontology sets ancient life in its context by studying how long-term physical changes of global geography paleogeography and climate paleoclimate have affected the evolution of life, how ecosystems have responded to these changes and have adapted the planetary environment in turn and how these mutual responses have affected today's patterns of biodiversity. Hence, paleontology overlaps with geology (the study of rocks and rock formations) as well as with botany, biology, zoology and ecology – fields concerned with life forms and how they interact.
The major subdivisions of paleontology include paleozoology (animals), paleobotany (plants) and micropaleontology (microfossils). Paleozoologists may specialise in invertebrate paleontology, which deals with animals without backbones or in vertebrate paleontology, dealing with fossils of animals with backbones, including fossil hominids (paleoanthropology). Micropaleontologists study microscopic fossils, including organic-walled microfossils whose study is called palynology.
There are many developing specialties such as paleobiology, paleoecology, ichnology (the study of tracks and burrows) and taphonomy (the study of what happens to organisms after they expire). Major areas of study include the correlation of rock strata with their geologic ages and the study of evolution of lifeforms.
(meaning 'swift thief') was a genus
of dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur
that existed approximately 83 to 70 million years ago
during the later part of the Cretaceous Period
. There is only one currently recognized species
, V. mongoliensis
, although others have been assigned in the past. Fossils
of this species have been found in central Asia
, from both Inner
and Outer Mongolia
Smaller than other dromaeosaurids like Deinonychus and Achillobator, the turkey-sized Velociraptor nevertheless shared many of the same anatomical features. It was a bipedal carnivore with a long, stiffened tail and had an enlarged, sickle-shaped claw on each hindfoot, which is thought to have been used to kill its prey. Velociraptor can be distinguished from other dromaeosaurids by its long and low skull, with an upturned snout.
Due in large part to its prominent role in Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park and the subsequent motion picture series, Velociraptor (commonly shortened to 'raptor') is one of the dinosaur genera most familiar to the general public. It is also well-known to paleontologists, with over a dozen recovered fossil skeletons — the most of any dromaeosaurid. One particularly famous specimen shows a Velociraptor locked in combat with a Protoceratops. (see more...)