(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 paleontology world and its legacies
(meaning 'spiked lizard') was a genus
of herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur
from the Cretaceous Period
), about 74 to 72 million years ago
. It had four to six long horns extending from its neck frill
, a smaller horn on each of its cheeks and a single horn protruding from its nose, which was around 60 centimeters (2 ft) long and 15 centimeters (6 in) wide. The function or functions of the horns and frills have been the subject of debate for many years.
Styracosaurus was a large dinosaur, reaching lengths of 5.5 meters (18 ft) and weighing nearly 3 tons. It stood about 1.8 meters (6 ft) tall. Styracosaurus possessed four short legs and a bulky body. Its tail was rather short. It also had a beak and flat cheek teeth, indicating that its diet was herbivorous. Like other ceratopsians, this dinosaur may have been a herd animal, traveling in large groups, as suggested by bonebeds. Named by Lawrence Lambe in 1913, Styracosaurus is a member of the Centrosaurinae. Three species, S. albertensis, S. ovatus, and S. parksi are currently assigned to Styracosaurus, though the last species may be synonymous with S. albertensis. Other species assigned to the genus have since been reassigned elsewhere. (see more...)
Selected article on paleontology in human science, culture and economics
Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards is a graphic novel written by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by the company Big Time Attic. The book tells a slightly fictionalized account of the Bone Wars, a period of intense excavation, speculation, and rivalry which led to a greater understanding of dinosaurs in the western United States. This novel is the first semi-fictional work written by Ottaviani; previously, he had taken no creative license with the characters he depicted, portraying them strictly according to historical sources.
Bone Sharps follows the two scientists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Marsh as they engage in an intense rivalry for prestige. Ottaviani has Cope and Marsh interact and meet many important figures of the Gilded Age, from P. T. Barnum to U.S. Grant, as the two scientists pursue their hotheaded and sometimes illegal acquisitions of fossils. Unlike in his previous books, "the scientists are the bad guys this time". Upon release, the novel received praise from critics for its exceptional historical content, although some reviewers wished more fiction had been woven into the story. (see more...)