Paleontology/What is Paleontology

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Paleontology is the study of past life. It is considered to include all the history of life on Earth from about 3.5 billion years ago to nearly the present. The study of past human civilizations and their immediate precursors, which are covered by the related science of archaeology.

The study of Palaeontology includes the study of fossils, the places they occur, how things become fossils, the relationship of one fossil with other fossils and living species, and the environment they lived in. It also involves the piecing together past organisms from their remains as living organisms.

Most paleontologists need to have some knowledge of geology, anatomy, ecology, and other fields of science depending on their specialty.

Paleontology is usually classed as a branch of geology, but because it studies past life, it is heavily reliant on the biological sciences as well. In universities and museums paleontologists, and some paleontology programs, are included as part of biology departments instead of or in addition to their relationships with geology departments.

Among the sub disciplines of paleontology are the following:

  • Invertebrate paleontology - the study of fossil invertebrates.
  • Molecular Paleontology - the recovery of DNA from ancient remains.
  • Paleoanthropology - the study of human evolution (this comes closest to archaeology).
  • Paleoautecology - the study of an individual fossil in relation to the ancient habitat where it occurred.
  • Paleobotany - the study of fossil plants.
  • Paleoecology - the study of ancient ecosystems as a whole, not just the individual species that occurred.
  • Paleosynecology - the study of fossil assemblages.
  • Paleornithology - the study of fossil birds.
  • Ichnology - the study of tracks, burrows etc. considered to be trace fossils.
  • Taphonomy - the study of process of dying and the processes that occur after an organisms death).
  • Vertebrate paleontology - the study of fossil vertebrates.
  • Micropaleontology - the study of microscopic fossils.
  • Palynology - the study of fossil pollen.