(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.
New Information on the Cranial Anatomy of Acrocanthosaurus atokensis and Its Implications for the Phylogeny of Allosauroidea (Dinosauria: Theropoda)
Drew R. Eddy, Julia A. Clarke
published 21 Mar 2011
Selected article on the prehistoric world and its legacies
(meaning 'tyrant lizard') is a genus
of tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaur
. The species Tyrannosaurus rex
, commonly abbreviated to T. rex
, is one of the dinosaurs most often featured in popular culture
around the world. It hails from what is now western North America
Like other tyrannosaurids, Tyrannosaurus was a bipedal carnivore with a massive skull balanced by a long, heavy tail. Relative to the large and powerful hindlimbs, Tyrannosaurus forelimbs were small and retained only two digits. Although other theropods rivaled or exceeded T. rex in size, it was the largest known tyrannosaurid and one of the largest known land predators, measuring over 13 metres (43 ft) in length and up to 7.5 tons in weight.
Fossils of some T. rex have been found in North American rock formations dating to the very end of the Cretaceous Period (late Maastrichtian stage, 65 million years ago); it was among the last dinosaurs to exist prior to the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. More than 30 specimens of T. rex have now been identified, some nearly complete, which has allowed significant research into many aspects of its biology, including its life history and biomechanics. The feeding habits and potential speed of T. rex remain controversial. (see more...)
Selected article on paleontology in human science, culture and economics
The Bone Wars is the name given to a period of intense fossil speculation and discovery during the Gilded Age of American history, marked by a heated rivalry between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. The two paleontologists used underhanded methods to out-compete the other in the field, resorting to bribery, theft, and destruction of bones. The scientists also attacked each other in scientific publications, attempting to ruin the other's credibility and cut off his funding.
Originally colleagues who were civil to each other, Cope and Marsh became bitter enemies after several personal slights between them. Their pursuit of bones led them west to rich bone beds in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. From 1877 to 1892, both paleontologists used their wealth and influence to finance their own expeditions and to procure services and fossils from dinosaur hunters. By the end of the Bone Wars, both men exhausted their funds in fueling their intense rivalry.
Cope and Marsh were financially and socially ruined by their efforts to disgrace each other, but their contributions to science and the field of paleontology were massive; the scientists left behind tons of unopened boxes of fossils on their deaths. The feud between the two men led to over 142 new species of dinosaurs being discovered and described. The products of the Bone Wars resulted in an increase in knowledge of ancient life, and sparked the public's interest in dinosaurs, leading to continued fossil excavation in North America in the decades to come. Several historical books and fictional adaptations have also been published about this period of intense paleontological activity. (see more...)
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