Portal:Paleontology

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The Palaeontology Portal

Introduction

A paleontologist at work at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Paleontology (/ˌpliɒnˈtɒləi, ˌpæli-, -ən-/), also spelled palaeontology or palæontology, is the scientific study of life that existed prior to, and sometimes including, the start of the Holocene epoch (roughly 11,700 years before present). It includes the study of fossils to classify organisms and study their interactions with each other and their environments (their paleoecology). Paleontological observations have been documented as far back as the 5th century BCE. The science became established in the 18th century as a result of Georges Cuvier's work on comparative anatomy, and developed rapidly in the 19th century. The term itself originates from Greek παλαιός ('palaios', "old, ancient"), ὄν ('on', (gen. 'ontos'), "being, creature"), and λόγος ('logos', "speech, thought, study").

Paleontology lies on the border between biology and geology, but differs from archaeology in that it excludes the study of anatomically modern humans. It now uses techniques drawn from a wide range of sciences, including biochemistry, mathematics, and engineering. Use of all these techniques has enabled paleontologists to discover much of the evolutionary history of life, almost all the way back to when Earth became capable of supporting life, nearly 4 billion years ago. As knowledge has increased, paleontology has developed specialised sub-divisions, some of which focus on different types of fossil organisms while others study ecology and environmental history, such as ancient climates. (Full article...)

Selected article on the prehistoric world and its legacies

Life restoration of Marella, the most common animal in the Burgess Shale.
The fossils of the Burgess Shale, like the Burgess Shale itself, formed around 505 million years ago in the Mid Cambrian period. They were discovered in Canada in 1886, and Charles Doolittle Walcott collected over 60,000 specimens in a series of field trips up from 1909 to 1924. After a period of neglect from the 1930s to the early 1960s, new excavations and re-examinations of Walcott's collection resumed and paleontologists continue to discover new species. These fossils have been preserved in a distinctive style known as Burgess shale type preservation, which preserves fairly tough tissues such as cuticle as thin films and soft tissues as solid shapes.

In the 1970s and early 1980s the Burgess fossils were largely regarded as evidence that the familiar phyla of animals appeared very rapidly in the Early Cambrian, in what is often called the Cambrian explosion. This view was already known to Charles Darwin, who regarded it as one of the greatest difficulties for the theory of evolution he presented in The Origin of Species. However, from the early 1980s the cladistics method of analysing "evolutionary family trees" has persuaded most researchers that many of the Burgess Shale's "weird wonders", such as Opabinia and Hallucinogenia, were evolutionary relatives of modern animal groups rather than a rapid proliferation of separate phyla, some of which were short-lived. Nevertheless, there is still debate, sometimes vigorous, about the relationships between some groups of animals. (see more...)

Did you know?

A Zophotermes ashoki preserved in amber
A life restoration of Kulindroplax
  • ... that Kulindroplax is the first known mollusk showing an unambiguous combination of exterior shells and a worm-like body?
  • ... that the name for the extinct birch family genus Kardiasperma is from the Greek words for "heart" and "seed"?
  • ... that the fossil ant genus Archiponera is known from a single pair of fossils described in 1930?
  • ... that Algeripithecus, a 46–50 million year old fossil primate, was once crucial for the African origins of simians (monkeys and apes), but now suggests African origins for lemurs and lorisoids?
  • ... that at the time of description, the extinct Tilia johnsoni (pictured) was the oldest basswood macrofossil occurrence?

General images - load new batch

The following are images from various paleontology-related articles on Wikipedia.

Selected article on paleontology in human science, culture and economics

The Palanga Amber Museum.
The Palanga Amber Museum, near the Baltic Sea in Palanga, Lithuania, is a branch of the Lithuanian Art Museum. It is housed in the restored 19th-century Tiškevičiai Palace and is surrounded by the Palanga Botanical Garden. The museum's collection of amber comprises about 28,000 pieces, of which about 15,000 contain inclusions of insects, spiders, or plants. About 4,500 pieces of amber are exhibited; many of these are items of artwork and jewelry.

The first floor is dedicated to displays that illustrate the formation and composition of amber. Amber in the area arose from deltaic deposits of rivers flowing from Fennoscandia in the Eocene Period, about 40 to 45 million years ago. The processes via which resin is changed into amber by microorganisms, oxidation, and polymerization are illustrated. Samples of microdrops and microicicles (i.e. "amber within amber") are among the displayed items. The museum holds Europe's third largest amber specimen, the "Sun Stone", of size 210x190x150 mm and weighing 3,526 grams, which has been stolen twice. Amber from other areas of the world is also part of the collection.(see more...)

On this day...

August 9:

Convergent Evolution in Aquatic Tetrapods: Insights from an Exceptional Fossil Mosasaur

Johan Lindgren, Michael W. Caldwell, Takuya Konishi, Luis M. Chiappe

published 09 Aug 2010

Assessing Arboreal Adaptations of Bird Antecedents: Testing the Ecological Setting of the Origin of the Avian Flight Stroke

T. Alexander Dececchi, Hans C. E. Larsson

published 09 Aug 2011

Lujiatun Psittacosaurids: Understanding Individual and Taphonomic Variation Using 3D Geometric Morphometrics

Brandon P. Hedrick, Peter Dodson

published 09 Aug 2013

Selected image

Polished slice of Triassic petrified wood from Arizona

The middle of a polished 15.34 cm × 18.04 cm slice of a petrified tree from Arizona, USA. After the enlargement of the image it is possible to see insect borings in the wood. The tree lived approximately 230 million years ago during the Late Triassic.
Photo credit: Michael Gäbler

Categories

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Topics

General - Paleontology - Fossil - Evolution - Extinction
History - History of paleontology - Bone Wars - List of years in paleontology
Locations - List of dinosaur-bearing rock formations - List of fossil sites - Como Bluff - Coon Creek Formation - Dinosaur Cove - Dinosaur National Monument - Dinosaur Park Formation - Dinosaur State Park and Arboretum - Glen Rose Formation - Hell Creek Formation - Lance Formation - Morrison Formation - Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite - Two Medicine Formation
Paleontologists - Mary Anning - Robert T. Bakker - Barnum Brown - William Buckland - Edward Drinker Cope - Jack Horner - Gideon Mantell - Othniel Charles Marsh - John Ostrom - Dong Zhiming
Geologic Time - Paleozoic Era - Cambrian (Early Cambrian - Middle Cambrian - Furongian) - Ordovician (Early Ordovician - Middle Ordovician - Late Ordovician) - Silurian (Llandovery - Wenlock - Ludlow - Pridoli) - Devonian (Early Devonian - Middle Devonian - Late Devonian) - Carboniferous (Mississippian - Pennsylvanian) - Permian (Cisuralian - Guadalupian - Lopingian) - Mesozoic Era - Triassic (Early Triassic - Middle Triassic - Late Triassic) - Jurassic (Early Jurassic - Middle Jurassic - Late Jurassic) - Cretaceous (Early Cretaceous - Late Cretaceous) - Cenozoic Era - Paleogene (Paleocene - Eocene - Oligocene) - Neogene (Miocene - Pliocene) - Quaternary (Pleistocene - Holocene)
Fringe and Pseudoscience - Creationist perspectives on dinosaurs - Living dinosaurs
Popular Culture - Cultural depictions of dinosaurs - Jurassic Park (novel) - Jurassic Park (film) - Stegosaurus in popular culture -Tyrannosaurus in popular culture - Walking with...

Quality Content

Featured paleontology articles - Achelousaurus - Acrocanthosaurus - Albertosaurus - Allosaurus - Amargasaurus - Ankylosaurus - Apatosaurus - Archaeopteryx - Baryonyx - Carnotaurus - Catopsbaatar - Ceratosaurus - Chicxulub Crater - Compsognathus - Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event - Daspletosaurus - Deinocheirus - Deinonychus - Deinosuchus - Dilophosaurus - Dinosaur - Diplodocus - Dromaeosauroides - Edmontosaurus - Elasmosaurus - Giganotosaurus - Gorgosaurus - Herrerasaurus - Iguanodon - Istiodactylus - Lambeosaurus - List of dinosaur genera - Majungasaurus - Massospondylus - Megalodon - Nemegtomaia - Nigersaurus - Opisthocoelicaudia - Paranthodon - Parasaurolophus - Plateosaurus - Psittacosaurus - Seorsumuscardinus - Stegosaurus - Stegoceras - Styracosaurus - Tarbosaurus - Thescelosaurus - Triceratops - Tyrannosaurus - Velociraptor
Good paleontology articles - Abelisauridae - Alioramus - Amphicoelias - Archaeoraptor - Batrachotomus - Ceratopsia - Coelurus - Dromaeosauridae - Giganotosaurus - Gryposaurus - Heterodontosauridae - Herrerasaurus - Hypacrosaurus - Kritosaurus - Othnielosaurus - Pachycephalosaurus - Saurolophus - Sauropelta - Scelidosaurus - Species of Allosaurus - Species of Psittacosaurus - Spinosaurus - Tyrannosauroidea

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