(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 prehistoric world and its legacies
Selected article on paleontology in human science, culture and economics
Cultural depictions of dinosaurs
have been numerous since the word dinosaur
was coined in 1842. The dinosaurs featured in books, films, television programs, artwork, and other media have been used for both education and entertainment. The depictions range from the realistic, as in the television documentaries
of the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century, or the fantastic, as in the monster movies
of the 1950s and 1960s.
The growth in interest in dinosaurs since the Dinosaur Renaissance has been accompanied by depictions made by artists working with ideas at the leading edge of dinosaur science, presenting lively dinosaurs and feathered dinosaurs as these concepts were first being considered. Cultural depictions of dinosaurs have been an important means of translating scientific discoveries to the public.
Cultural depictions have also created or reinforced misconceptions about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, such as inaccurately and anachronistically portraying a sort of "prehistoric world" where many kinds of extinct animals (from the Permian animal Dimetrodon to mammoths and cavemen) lived together, and dinosaurs living lives of constant combat.
Other misconceptions reinforced by cultural depictions came from a scientific consensus that has now been overturned, such as the alternate usage of dinosaur to describe something that is maladapted or obsolete, or dinosaurs as slow and unintelligent. (see more...)
- ... that within the United States, dinosaur fossils (example pictured) have been found in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Wyoming, but not in Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, or Wisconsin?
- ... that Ekgmowechashala was the only North American genus of primate during the Late Oligocene?
- ... that lice from mummified guinea pigs and mites preserved in amber while feeding on spiders have provided evidence for researchers in the field of paleoparasitology?
Current Paleontology FACs - None yet...