Portal:Paleontology

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 παλα ('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

Acrocanthosaurus atokensis.
Acrocanthosaurus (meaning 'high-spined lizard') was a genus of allosauroid theropod dinosaur that existed in what is now North America during the mid-Cretaceous Period, approximately 125 to 100 million years ago. Like most dinosaur genera, Acrocanthosaurus contains only a single species, A. atokensis. Its fossil remains are found mainly in the U.S. states of Oklahoma and Texas, although teeth attributed to Acrocanthosaurus have been found as far east as Maryland.

Acrocanthosaurus was a bipedal predator. As the name suggests, it is best known for the high neural spines on many of its vertebrae, which most likely supported a ridge of muscle over the animal's neck, back and hips. Acrocanthosaurus was one of the largest theropods, approaching 12 meters (40 ft) in length, and weighing up to about 2.40 metric tons (2.65 short tons). Large theropod footprints discovered in Texas may have been made by Acrocanthosaurus, although there is no direct association with skeletal remains.

Recent discoveries have elucidated many details of its anatomy, allowing for specialized studies focusing on its brain structure and forelimb function. However, there is still debate over its evolutionary relationships, with some scientists classifying it as an allosaurid, and others as a carcharodontosaurid. Acrocanthosaurus was the largest theropod in its ecosystem and likely an apex predator which possibly preyed on large sauropods and ornithopods. (see more...)

Did you know?

Fossilized Araucaria mirabilis cones
A life restoration of Raranimus

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

"Archaeoraptor" is the generic name informally assigned in 1999 to a fossil from China in an article published in National Geographic magazine. The magazine claimed that the fossil was a "missing link" between birds and terrestrial theropod dinosaurs. Even prior to this publication there had been severe doubts about the fossil's authenticity. It led to a scandal when evidence demonstrated it to be a forgery through further scientific study. The forgery was constructed from rearranged pieces of real fossils from different species. Zhou et al. found that the head and upper body actually belong to a specimen of the primitive fossil bird Yanornis. A 2002 study found that the tail belongs to a small winged dromaeosaur, Microraptor, named in 2000. The legs and feet belong to an as yet unknown animal.

The "Archaeoraptor" scandal has ongoing ramifications. The scandal brought attention to illegal fossil deals conducted in China. It also highlighted the need for close scientific scrutiny of purported "missing links" published in journals which are not peer-reviewed. The fossil scandal has been used by creationists in attempts to cast doubt on evolutionary theory. Although "Archaeoraptor" was a forgery, many true examples of feathered dinosaurs have been found and demonstrate the evolutionary connection between birds and other theropods. (see more...)

On this day...

May 15:

New Dromaeosaurids (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Lower Cretaceous of Utah, and the Evolution of the Dromaeosaurid Tail

Phil Senter, James I. Kirkland, Donald D. DeBlieux, Scott Madsen, Natalie Toth

published 15 May 2012

Shake a Tail Feather: The Evolution of the Theropod Tail into a Stiff Aerodynamic Surface

Michael Pittman, Stephen M. Gatesy, Paul Upchurch, Anjali Goswami, John R. Hutchinson

published 15 May 2013

Palaeopathological Survey of a Population of Mapusaurus (Theropoda: Carcharodontosauridae) from the Late Cretaceous Huincul Formation, Argentina

Phil R. Bell, Rodolfo A. Coria

published 15 May 2013

The Behavioral Implications of a Multi-Individual Bonebed of a Small Theropod Dinosaur

Lucio M. Ibiricu, Rubén D. Martínez, Gabriel A. Casal, Ignacio A. Cerda

published 15 May 2013

Selected image

A fossil of a member of the trilobite genus Niobella resembling the species N. fourneti

Fossil of a trilobite in the genus Niobella resembling the species N. fourneti. This fossil was discovered in Saint-Nazaire de Ladarez, France.
Photo credit: Pierre Selim

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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