(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.
Selected article on the Paleontology world and its legacies
(meaning 'double bar') is a genus
of diplodocid sauropod dinosaur
whose fossilised skeleton was first discovered in 1878. The generic name refers to its double-beamed chevron bones
diplos/διπλος meaning 'double' and dokos/δοκος meaning 'wooden beam' or 'bar') located in the underside of the tail. They were initially believed to be unique to Diplodocus
; however, they have since then been discovered in other diplodocids.
It lived in what is now western North America at the end of the Jurassic Period. Diplodocus was one of the more common dinosaurs found in the Upper Morrison Formation, about 150 to 147 million years ago, in what is now termed the Kimmeridgian and Tithonian stages. This was an environment and time dominated by gigantic sauropod dinosaurs such as Camarasaurus, Barosaurus, Apatosaurus and Brachiosaurus. Diplodocus is among the most easily identifiable dinosaurs, with its classic dinosaur shape, long neck and tail and four sturdy legs. For many years, it was the longest dinosaur known. Its great size may have been a deterrent to the predators Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus: their remains have been found in the same strata, which suggests they coexisted with Diplodocus. (see more...)
Selected article on the Paleontology in human science, culture and economics
was an American naturalist
, marine biologist
, and author
. He is remembered for the numerous expeditions he conducted for the New York Zoological Society
, his deep dives in the Bathysphere
, and his prolific scientific writing
for both academic and popular audiences.
Born in Brooklyn, New York Beebe left college before obtaining a degree in order to work at the then newly opened New York Zoological Park, where he was given the duty of caring for the zoo's birds. Beebe participated in a series of research expeditions, including one intended to document the world's pheasants. He published an account of his pheasant expedition titled A Monograph of the Pheasants.
During the course of his expeditions Beebe gradually developed an interest in marine biology, ultimately leading to his 1930s dives in the Bathysphere off the coast of Bermuda. These dives represented the first time a biologist observed deep-sea animals in their native environment. Later, Beebe returned to the tropics and founded a tropical research station which remains in operation as part of the Asa Wright Nature Centre. Beebe's research there continued until his death in 1962.
He is also remembered for several theories he proposed about avian evolution which are now regarded as having been ahead of their time, particularly his 1915 hypothesis that the evolution of bird flight passed through a four-winged or "Tetrapteryx" stage, which has been supported by the 2003 discovery of Microraptor gui. (see more...)