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Paleontology
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{{short description|Scientific study of prehistoric life}}{{Redirect|Palaeontology|the scientific journal|Palaeontology (journal)}}{{Paleontology}}File:Joda paleontologist.jpg|thumb|A paleontologist at work at John Day Fossil Beds National MonumentJohn Day Fossil Beds National MonumentPaleontology or palaeontology ({{IPAc-en|ËŒ|p|eɪ|l|i|É’|n|ˈ|t|É’|l|É™|dÊ’|i|,_|ËŒ|p|æ|l|i|-|,_|-|É™|n|-}}) 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 determine organisms' evolution and interactions with each other and their environments (their paleoecology). Paleontological observations have been documented as far back as the 5th century BC. 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".WEB, paleontology,weblink Online Etymology Dictionary, no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20130307065643weblink">weblink 2013-03-07, 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, about 3.8 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.Body fossils and trace fossils are the principal types of evidence about ancient life, and geochemical evidence has helped to decipher the evolution of life before there were organisms large enough to leave body fossils. Estimating the dates of these remains is essential but difficult: sometimes adjacent rock layers allow radiometric dating, which provides absolute dates that are accurate to within 0.5%, but more often paleontologists have to rely on relative dating by solving the "jigsaw puzzles" of biostratigraphy. Classifying ancient organisms is also difficult, as many do not fit well into the Linnaean taxonomy that is commonly used for classifying living organisms, and paleontologists more often use cladistics to draw up evolutionary "family trees". The final quarter of the 20th century saw the development of molecular phylogenetics, which investigates how closely organisms are related by measuring how similar the DNA is in their genomes. Molecular phylogenetics has also been used to estimate the dates when species diverged, but there is controversy about the reliability of the molecular clock on which such estimates depend.

Overview

The simplest definition is "the study of ancient life"."MEMBERWIDE"> TITLE=HISTORY OF LIFE PAGE=XI EDITION=3RD, 0-632-04444-6, Paleontology seeks information about several aspects of past organisms: "their identity and origin, their environment and evolution, and what they can tell us about the Earth's organic and inorganic past".LAPORTE, L.F. > TITLE=WHAT, AFTER ALL, IS PALEONTOLOGY? VOLUME=3 DATE=OCTOBER 1988, 453 jstor=3514718, 1988Palai...3..453L,

A historical science

File:Europasaurus Praeparation.JPG|thumb|The preparation of the fossilised bones of Europasaurus holgeri]]Paleontology is one of the historical sciences, along with archaeology, geology, astronomy, cosmology, philology and history itself.LAUDAN, R. > CHAPTER=WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE PAST?, 58 editor=Nitecki, M.H. date=1992,weblink isbn=0-7914-1211-3, This means that it aims to describe phenomena of the past and reconstruct their causes. Hence it has three main elements: description of the phenomena; developing a general theory about the causes of various types of change; and applying those theories to specific facts.When trying to explain past phenomena, paleontologists and other historical scientists often construct a set of hypotheses about the causes and then look for a smoking gun, a piece of evidence that indicates that one hypothesis is a better explanation than others. Sometimes the smoking gun is discovered by a fortunate accident during other research. For example, the discovery by Luis Alvarez and Walter Alvarez of an iridium-rich layer at the Cretaceous–Tertiary boundary made asteroid impact and volcanism the most favored explanations for the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.JOURNAL
, Cleland, C.E.
, Methodological and Epistemic Differences between Historical Science and Experimental Science
, Philosophy of Science
, 69
, September 2002
, 474–496
,weblink
, PDF
, September 17, 2008
, 10.1086/342453
, 3
, yes
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20081003221929weblink">weblink
, October 3, 2008
,
, The other main type of science is experimental science, which is often said to work by conducting experiments to disprove hypotheses about the workings and causes of natural phenomena â€“ note that this approach cannot confirm a hypothesis is correct, since some later experiment may disprove it. However, when confronted with totally unexpected phenomena, such as the first evidence for invisible radiation, experimental scientists often use the same approach as historical scientists: construct a set of hypotheses about the causes and then look for a "smoking gun".

Related sciences

{{Human timeline}}{{Life timeline}}Paleontology lies on the boundary between biology and geology since paleontology focuses on the record of past life but its main source of evidence is fossils,NEWS,weblink paleontology {{!, science|work=Encyclopædia Britannica|access-date=2017-08-24|language=en|deadurl=no|archiveurl=https://web.archive.org/web/20170824223403weblink|archivedate=2017-08-24|df=}} which are found in rocks.MCGRAW-HILL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY > PUBLISHER=MCGRAW-HILL PAGE=58, 0-07-913665-6, For historical reasons paleontology is part of the geology departments of many universities, because in the 19th century and early 20th century geology departments found paleontological evidence important for estimating the ages of rocks while biology departments showed little interest.LAUDAN, R. > CHAPTER=WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE PAST?, 57 editor=Nitecki, M.H. date=1992 isbn=0-7914-1211-3, Paleontology also has some overlap with archaeology, which primarily works with objects made by humans and with human remains, while paleontologists are interested in the characteristics and evolution of humans as organisms. When dealing with evidence about humans, archaeologists and paleontologists may work together â€“ for example paleontologists might identify animal or plant fossils around an archaeological site, to discover what the people who lived there ate; or they might analyze the climate at the time when the site was inhabited by humans.WEB
,weblink
, September 17, 2008
, How does paleontology differ from anthropology and archaeology?
, University of California Museum of Paleontology
, no
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080916013642weblink">weblink
, September 16, 2008
,
, In addition paleontology often uses techniques derived from other sciences, including biology, osteology, ecology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. For example, geochemical signatures from rocks may help to discover when life first arose on Earth,JOURNAL
, Brasier, M.
, McLoughlin, N.
, Green, O.
, Wacey, D.
, yes
, June 2006
, A fresh look at the fossil evidence for early Archaean cellular life
, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B
, 361
, 1470
, 887–902
, 10.1098/rstb.2006.1835
,weblink
, August 30, 2008
, PDF
, 16754605
, 1578727
, no
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080911075352weblink">weblink
, September 11, 2008
,
, and analyses of carbon isotope ratios may help to identify climate changes and even to explain major transitions such as the Permian–Triassic extinction event.JOURNAL, Rapid and synchronous collapse of marine and terrestrial ecosystems during the end-Permian biotic crisis, Twitchett RJ, Looy CV, Morante R, Visscher Hjournal=Geology, 29pages=351–354, 10.1130/0091-7613(2001)0292.0.CO;2year=2001, A relatively recent discipline, molecular phylogenetics, often helps by using comparisons of different modern organisms' DNA and RNA to re-construct evolutionary "family trees"; it has also been used to estimate the dates of important evolutionary developments, although this approach is controversial because of doubts about the reliability of the "molecular clock".10.1073/PNAS.0503660102 > PMID = 15983372 AUTHOR2 = BUTTERFIELD, N.J., yes volume = 102 pages = 9547–52, 2005, Origin of the Eumetazoa: Testing ecological predictions of molecular clocks against the Proterozoic fossil record bibcode=2005PNAS..102.9547P, Techniques developed in engineering have been used to analyse how ancient organisms might have worked, for example how fast Tyrannosaurus could move and how powerful its bite was.JOURNAL, Hutchinson, J. R., Garcia, M., yes title=Tyrannosaurus was not a fast runner volume=415 doi=10.1038/4151018a issue=6875, 2002Natur.415.1018H, Summary in press release No Olympian: Analysis hints T. rex ran slowly, if at all {{webarchive|url=https://web.archive.org/web/20080415183735weblink |date=2008-04-15 }}JOURNAL, Meers, M.B., August 2003,weblink Maximum bite force and prey size of Tyrannosaurus rex and their relationships to the inference of feeding behavior, Historical Biology, 16, 1, 1–12, 10.1080/0891296021000050755, no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080705140019weblink">weblink 2008-07-05, It is relatively commonplace to study fossils using X-ray microtomographyJOURNAL, From clergymen to computers: the advent of virtual palaeontology, Russell J., Garwood, Imran A., Rahman, Mark D. A., Sutton, 2010, Geology Today, 26, 3, 96–100,weblink June 16, 2015, 10.1111/j.1365-2451.2010.00753.x, A combination of paleontology, biology, and archaeology, paleoneurobiology is the study of endocranial casts (or endocasts) of species related to humans to learn about the evolution of human brains.JOURNAL, Bruner, Emiliano, Geometric morphometrics and palaeoneurology: brain shape evolution in the genus Homo, Journal of Human Evolution, November 2004, 47, 5, 279–303, 10.1016/j.jhevol.2004.03.009,weblink 27 September 2011, 15530349, Paleontology even contributes to astrobiology, the investigation of possible life on other planets, by developing models of how life may have arisen and by providing techniques for detecting evidence of life.ASTROBIOLOGY: A NEW FRONTIER FOR 21ST CENTURY PALEONTOLOGISTS > AUTHOR=CADY, S.L. VOLUME=13 DATE=APRIL 1998, 95–97, 10.2307/3515482 jstor=3515482, 1998Palai..13...95C,

Subdivisions

As knowledge has increased, paleontology has developed specialised subdivisions.JOURNAL, Plotnick, R.E., A Somewhat Fuzzy Snapshot of Employment in Paleontology in the United States, Palaeontologia Electronica, Coquina Press, 11, 1, 1094-8074,weblink September 17, 2008, no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080518081827weblink">weblink May 18, 2008, Vertebrate paleontology concentrates on fossils of vertebrates, from the earliest fish to the immediate ancestors of modern mammals. Invertebrate paleontology deals with fossils of invertebrates such as molluscs, arthropods, annelid worms and echinoderms. Paleobotany focuses on the study of fossil plants, but traditionally includes the study of fossil algae and fungi. Palynology, the study of pollen and spores produced by land plants and protists, straddles the border between paleontology and botany, as it deals with both living and fossil organisms. Micropaleontology deals with all microscopic fossil organisms, regardless of the group to which they belong.WEB,weblink September 17, 2008, What is Paleontology?, University of California Museum of Paleontology, yes,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080803042642weblink">weblink August 3, 2008, File:Fossil Tyranausaurus Rex at the Royal Tyrell Museum, Alberta, Canada.jpg|thumb|upright=0.7|left| Analyses using engineering techniques show that TyrannosaurusTyrannosaurusInstead of focusing on individual organisms, paleoecology examines the interactions between different organisms, such as their places in food chains, and the two-way interaction between organisms and their environment.JOURNAL, Kitchell, J.A., Evolutionary Paleocology: Recent Contributions to Evolutionary Theory, Paleobiology, 11, 1, 1985, 91–104,weblink September 17, 2008, yes,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080803042642weblink">weblink August 3, 2008,   One example is the development of oxygenic photosynthesis by bacteria, which hugely increased the productivity and diversity of ecosystems.JOURNAL, The role of microbial mats in the production of reduced gases on the early Earth, Hoehler, T.M., Bebout, B.M., Des Marais, D.J. journal=Nature, 412 date=19 July 2001, 10.1038/35085554 issue=6844, This also caused the oxygenation of the atmosphere. Together, these were a prerequisite for the evolution of the most complex eukaryotic cells, from which all multicellular organisms are built.JOURNAL
, A molecular timescale of eukaryote evolution and the rise of complex multicellular life
, Hedges, S.B.
, Blair, J.E
, Venturi, M.L.
, Shoe, J.L.
, yes
, BMC Evolutionary Biology
, 4
, 10.1186/1471-2148-4-2
, January 2004
,weblink
, July 14, 2008
, 2
, 15005799
, 341452
, no
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080509191803weblink">weblink
, May 9, 2008
,
, Paleoclimatology, although sometimes treated as part of paleoecology, focuses more on the history of Earth's climate and the mechanisms that have changed itWEB
,weblink
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20071109175527weblink">weblink
, yes
, November 9, 2007
, Paleoclimatology
, Ohio State University
, September 17, 2008
,  â€“ which have sometimes included evolutionary developments, for example the rapid expansion of land plants in the Devonian period removed more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing the greenhouse effect and thus helping to cause an ice age in the Carboniferous period.JOURNAL, Algeo, T.J., Scheckler, S.E., yes, Terrestrial-marine teleconnections in the Devonian: links between the evolution of land plants, weathering processes, and marine anoxic events date=1998 pages=113–130 pmc=1692181, 1365, Biostratigraphy, the use of fossils to work out the chronological order in which rocks were formed, is useful to both paleontologists and geologists.WEB
,weblink
, September 17, 2008
, Biostratigraphy: William Smith
, yes
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080724091521weblink">weblink
, July 24, 2008
,
, Biogeography studies the spatial distribution of organisms, and is also linked to geology, which explains how Earth's geography has changed over time.WEB
,weblink
, September 17, 2008
, Biogeography: Wallace and Wegener (1 of 2)
, University of California Museum of Paleontology and University of California at Berkeley
, yes
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080515204649weblink">weblink
, May 15, 2008
,
,

Sources of evidence

Body fossils

File:Marrella (fossil).png|thumb|left| This Marrella specimen illustrates how clear and detailed the fossils from the Burgess Shale lagerstättelagerstätteFossils of organisms' bodies are usually the most informative type of evidence. The most common types are wood, bones, and shells.WEB,weblink September 17, 2008, What is paleontology?, University of California Museum of Paleontology, no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080916013642weblink">weblink September 16, 2008, Fossilisation is a rare event, and most fossils are destroyed by erosion or metamorphism before they can be observed. Hence the fossil record is very incomplete, increasingly so further back in time. Despite this, it is often adequate to illustrate the broader patterns of life's history.JOURNAL, Benton MJ, Wills MA, Hitchin Rjournal=Nature issue=6769, 534–7pmid=10676959 bibcode = 2000Natur.403..534B,
Non-technical summary {{webarchive|url=https://web.archive.org/web/20070809045303weblink |date=2007-08-09 }}
There are also biases in the fossil record: different environments are more favorable to the preservation of different types of organism or parts of organisms.JOURNAL, Butterfield, N.J., 2003, Exceptional Fossil Preservation and the Cambrian Explosion, Integrative and Comparative Biology, 43, 1, 166–177, 10.1093/icb/43.1.166,weblink June 28, 2008, 21680421, no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080905073155weblink">weblink September 5, 2008, Further, only the parts of organisms that were already mineralised are usually preserved, such as the shells of molluscs. Since most animal species are soft-bodied, they decay before they can become fossilised. As a result, although there are 30-plus phyla of living animals, two-thirds have never been found as fossils.BOOK
TITLE=HISTORY OF LIFE PAGE=61 EDITION=3RD, 0-632-04444-6, Occasionally, unusual environments may preserve soft tissues. These lagerstätten allow paleontologists to examine the internal anatomy of animals that in other sediments are represented only by shells, spines, claws, etc. â€“ if they are preserved at all. However, even lagerstätten present an incomplete picture of life at the time. The majority of organisms living at the time are probably not represented because lagerstätten are restricted to a narrow range of environments, e.g. where soft-bodied organisms can be preserved very quickly by events such as mudslides; and the exceptional events that cause quick burial make it difficult to study the normal environments of the animals.JOURNAL, Butterfield, N.J., 2001, Ecology and evolution of Cambrian planktonpublisher = Columbia University Press, New York url =weblink September 27, 2007, The sparseness of the fossil record means that organisms are expected to exist long before and after they are found in the fossil record â€“ this is known as the Signor–Lipps effect.SIGNOR, P.W. >DATE= 1982, Sampling bias, gradual extinction patterns and catastrophes in the fossil record, Geological Implications of Impacts of Large Asteroids and Comets on the Earth location= Boulder, CO pages = 291–296weblink > accessdate = January 1, 2008,

Trace fossils

File:CambrianRusophycus.jpg|thumb|Cambrian trace fossils including Rusophycus, made by a trilobitetrilobiteTrace fossils consist mainly of tracks and burrows, but also include coprolites (fossil feces) and marks left by feeding. Trace fossils are particularly significant because they represent a data source that is not limited to animals with easily fossilised hard parts, and they reflect organisms' behaviours. Also many traces date from significantly earlier than the body fossils of animals that are thought to have been capable of making them.e.g. SEILACHER, A. > DATE = 1994, How valid is Cruziana Stratigraphy?
volume = 83 pages = 752–758weblink > accessdate = September 9, 2007, PDF, 1994GeoRu..83..752S, 10.1007/BF00251073, Whilst exact assignment of trace fossils to their makers is generally impossible, traces may for example provide the earliest physical evidence of the appearance of moderately complex animals (comparable to earthworms).BOOK, Fedonkin, M.A., Gehling, J.G., Grey, K., Narbonne, G.M., Vickers-Rich, P., The Rise of Animals: Evolution and Diversification of the Kingdom Animalia date=2007 pages=213–216,weblink

Geochemical observations

Geochemical observations may help to deduce the global level of biological activity at a certain period, or the affinity of certain fossils. For example, geochemical features of rocks may reveal when life first arose on Earth, and may provide evidence of the presence of eukaryotic cells, the type from which all multicellular organisms are built.JOURNAL
, Brocks, J.J.
, Logan, G.A.
, Buick, R.
, Summons, R.E.
, yes
, 1999
, Archaean molecular fossils and the rise of eukaryotes
, Science
, 285
, 1033–1036
,weblink
, September 2, 2008
, 10.1126/science.285.5430.1033
, 10446042
, 5430
, no
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080621212657weblink">weblink
, June 21, 2008
,
, Analyses of carbon isotope ratios may help to explain major transitions such as the Permian–Triassic extinction event.

Classifying ancient organisms

{hide}clade
|label1=Tetrapods
|1={{clade
|1=Amphibians
|label2=Amniotes
|2={{clade
|label1=Synapsids
|1={{clade
|1=Extinct Synapsids
|label2={{font color|yellow|red|   {edih}
|2=Mammals
}}
|label2=Reptiles
|2={{clade
|1=Extinct reptiles
|2=Lizards and snakes
|label3=Archosaurs{{font color|yellow|red| ? }}
|3={{clade
|1=ExtinctArchosaurs
|2=Crocodilians
|label3=Dinosaurs{{font color|yellow|red| ? }}
|3={{clade
|1=ExtinctDinosaurs
|label2={{font color|yellow|red| ? }}
|2=Birds
}}
}}
}}
}}
}}
}}Simple example cladogram{{bg|red|   }} Warm-bloodedness evolved somewhere in thesynapsid–mammal transition.{{font color|yellow|red| ? }} Warm-bloodedness must also have evolved at one of these points â€“ an example of convergent evolution.File:Biological classification L Pengo.svg| thumb | left | upright=0.45 | Levels in the Linnaean taxonomyLinnaean taxonomyNaming groups of organisms in a way that is clear and widely agreed is important, as some disputes in paleontology have been based just on misunderstandings over names.JOURNAL, Brochu, C.A, Sumrall, C.D., yes, Phylogenetic Nomenclature and Paleontology
volume=75 date=July 2001, 754–757 jstor=1306999, 0022-3360, 2001, Linnaean taxonomy is commonly used for classifying living organisms, but runs into difficulties when dealing with newly discovered organisms that are significantly different from known ones. For example: it is hard to decide at what level to place a new higher-level grouping, e.g. genus or family or order; this is important since the Linnaean rules for naming groups are tied to their levels, and hence if a group is moved to a different level it must be renamed.ERESHEFSKY, M. > PAGE=5, The Poverty of the Linnaean Hierarchy: A Philosophical Study of Biological Taxonomy date=2001, 0-521-78170-1,weblink Paleontologists generally use approaches based on cladistics, a technique for working out the evolutionary "family tree" of a set of organisms. It works by the logic that, if groups B and C have more similarities to each other than either has to group A, then B and C are more closely related to each other than either is to A. Characters that are compared may be anatomical, such as the presence of a notochord, or molecular, by comparing sequences of DNA or proteins. The result of a successful analysis is a hierarchy of clades â€“ groups that share a common ancestor. Ideally the "family tree" has only two branches leading from each node ("junction"), but sometimes there is too little information to achieve this and paleontologists have to make do with junctions that have several branches. The cladistic technique is sometimes fallible, as some features, such as wings or camera eyes, evolved more than once, convergently â€“ this must be taken into account in analyses."MEMBERWIDE">
TITLE=HISTORY OF LIFE PAGES=47–50 EDITION=3RD, 0-632-04444-6, Evolutionary developmental biology, commonly abbreviated to "Evo Devo", also helps paleontologists to produce "family trees", and understand fossils.JOURNAL, A Paleozoic Stem Group to Mite Harvestmen Revealed through Integration of Phylogenetics and Development, Russell J., Garwood, Prashant P., Sharma, Jason A., Dunlop, Gonzalo, Giribet, 2014, Current Biology, 24, 9, 1017–1023,weblink April 17, 2014, 10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.039, 24726154, For example, the embryological development of some modern brachiopods suggests that brachiopods may be descendants of the halkieriids, which became extinct in the Cambrian period.JOURNAL, Cohen, B. L., Holmer, L. E., Luter, C., yes, 2003, The brachiopod fold: a neglected body plan hypothesis,weblink PDF, August 7, 2008, Palaeontology, 46, 1, 59–65, 10.1111/1475-4983.00287, no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20081003221928weblink">weblink October 3, 2008, {{Clear}}

Estimating the dates of organisms

{{Annotated image | caption=Common index fossils used to date rocks in North-East USA.| image=Index fossils blank 01.png | width=332
image-width=338 image-top=0 annot-font-size=10| annotations ={{Annotation|1|15|Cenozoic}}{{Annotation|1|70|Mesozoic}}{{Annotation|1|165|Paleozoic}}{{Annotation|1|252|Proterozoic}}{{Annotation|57|0|Quater-nary}}{{Annotation|57|25|Tertiary}}{{Annotation|57|42|Creta-ceous}}{{Annotation|57|68|Jurassic}}{{Annotation|57|89|Triassic}}{{Annotation|57|109|Permian}}{{Annotation|57|122|Missis-sippian}}{{Annotation|57|146|Pennsyl-vanian}}{{Annotation|57|166|Devo-nian}}{{Annotation|57|191|Silurian}}{{Annotation|57|207|Ordo-vician}}{{Annotation|57|227|Camb-rian}}{{Annotation|112|2|Pecten gibbus}}{{Annotation|120|20|Calyptraphorusvelatus}}{{Annotation|125|40|Scaphiteshippocrepis}}{{Annotation|129|63|Perisphinctestiziani}}{{Annotation|125|83|Trophitessubbullatus}}{{Annotation|123|105|Leptodusamericanus}}{{Annotation|110|125|Cactocrinusmultibrachiatus}}{{Annotation|128|143|Dictyoclostusamericanus}}{{Annotation|99|166|Mucrospinifermucronatus}}{{Annotation|125|186|Cystiphyllumniagarense}}{{Annotation|105|211|Bathyurus extans}}{{Annotation|127|231|Paradoxides pinus}}{{Annotation|225|6|Neptunea tabulata}}{{Annotation|257|20|Venericardiaplanicosta}}{{Annotation|249|40|Inoceramuslabiatus}}{{Annotation|253|63|Nerinea trinodosa}}{{Annotation|252|82|Monotissubcircularis}}{{Annotation|275|103|Parafusilinabosei}}{{Annotation|230|123|Lophophyllidiumproliferum}}{{Annotation|255|143|Prolecanites gurleyi}}{{Annotation|240|165|Palmatolepusunicornis}}{{Annotation|251|185|Hexamocaras hertzeri}}{{Annotation|250|206|Tetragraptus fructicosus}}{{Annotation|260|226|Billingsella corrugata}}}}Paleontology seeks to map out how living things have changed through time. A substantial hurdle to this aim is the difficulty of working out how old fossils are. Beds that preserve fossils typically lack the radioactive elements needed for radiometric dating. This technique is our only means of giving rocks greater than about 50 million years old an absolute age, and can be accurate to within 0.5% or better.JOURNAL, Martin, M.W.author3=Bowring, S.A. author5=Fedonkin, M.A., Kirschvink, J.L., May 5, 2000, Age of Neoproterozoic Bilaterian Body and Trace Fossils, White Sea, Russia: Implications for Metazoan Evolution volume = 288 pages = 841–5 type = abstract, 10797002radioactive decay>decay are known, and so the ratio of the radioactive element to the element into which it decays shows how long ago the radioactive element was incorporated into the rock. Radioactive elements are common only in rocks with a volcanic origin, and so the only fossil-bearing rocks that can be dated radiometrically are a few volcanic ash layers.Consequently, paleontologists must usually rely on stratigraphy to date fossils. Stratigraphy is the science of deciphering the "layer-cake" that is the sedimentary record, and has been compared to a jigsaw puzzle.JOURNAL, Pufahl, P.K., Grimm, K.A., Abed, A.M., Sadaqah, R.M.Y., yes, Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) phosphorites in Jordan: implications for the formation of a south Tethyan phosphorite giant volume=161 pages=175–205 issue=3–4 TITLE=GEOLOGIC TIME: RADIOMETRIC TIME SCALE DEADURL=NO ARCHIVEDATE=SEPTEMBER 21, 2008 Fault (geology)>faults or periods of erosion, it is very difficult to match up rock beds that are not directly next to one another. However, fossils of species that survived for a relatively short time can be used to link up isolated rocks: this technique is called biostratigraphy. For instance, the conodont Eoplacognathus pseudoplanus has a short range in the Middle Ordovician period.LöFGREN, A. > DATE = 2004, The conodont fauna in the Middle Ordovician Eoplacognathus pseudoplanus Zone of Baltoscandia volume = 141 pages = 505–524 accessdate = November 17, 2008,weblinkE. pseudoplanus, they must have a mid-Ordovician age. Such index fossils must be distinctive, be globally distributed and have a short time range to be useful. However, misleading results are produced if the index fossils turn out to have longer fossil ranges than first thought.GEHLING LAST2 = JENSEN LAST3 = DROSER LAST4 = MYROW LAST5 = NARBONNE TITLE = BURROWING BELOW THE BASAL CAMBRIAN GSSP, FORTUNE HEAD, NEWFOUNDLAND VOLUME = 138 PAGES = 213–218 ACCESSDATE = NOVEMBER 17, 2008 DOI = 10.1017/S001675680100509X DEADURL = NO ARCHIVEDATE = OCTOBER 19, 2008 A was before B), which is often sufficient for studying evolution. However, this is difficult for some time periods, because of the problems involved in matching up rocks of the same age across different continents.e.g. GEHLING LAST2 = JENSEN LAST3 = DROSER LAST4 = MYROW LAST5 = NARBONNE TITLE = BURROWING BELOW THE BASAL CAMBRIAN GSSP, FORTUNE HEAD, NEWFOUNDLAND VOLUME = 138 PAGES = 213–218 URL = HTTP://WWW.JOURNALS.CAMBRIDGE.ORG/ACTION/DISPLAYABSTRACT?FROMPAGE=ONLINE&AID=74669 ACCESSDATE = NOVEMBER 17, 2008 DEADURL = NO ARCHIVEDATE = OCTOBER 19, 2008, Family-tree relationships may also help to narrow down the date when lineages first appeared. For instance, if fossils of B or C date to X million years ago and the calculated "family tree" says A was an ancestor of B and C, then A must have evolved more than X million years ago.It is also possible to estimate how long ago two living clades diverged â€“ i.e. approximately how long ago their last common ancestor must have lived â€“ by assuming that DNA mutations accumulate at a constant rate. These "molecular clocks", however, are fallible, and provide only a very approximate timing: for example, they are not sufficiently precise and reliable for estimating when the groups that feature in the Cambrian explosion first evolved,JOURNAL, Hug, L.A., Roger, A.J., yes, The Impact of Fossils and Taxon Sampling on Ancient Molecular Dating Analyses date=2007 issue=8, 889–1897 pmid=17556757, and estimates produced by different techniques may vary by a factor of two.

Overview of paleontology's results about the history of life

File:Runzelmarken.jpg|thumb|This wrinkled "elephant skin" texture is a trace fossil of a non-stromatolite microbial mat. The image shows the location, in the Burgsvik beds of SwedenSweden{{Further|Timeline of evolutionary history of life}}The evolutionary history of life stretches back to over {{ma|3000|}}, possibly as far as {{ma|3800}}.JOURNAL, Patterns In Palaeontology: The first 3 billion years of evolution, Russell J., Garwood, 2012, Palaeontology Online, 2, 11, 1–14,weblink June 25, 2015, no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20150626104131weblink">weblink June 26, 2015, Earth formed about {{ma|4570}} and, after a collision that formed the Moon about 40 million years later, may have cooled quickly enough to have oceans and an atmosphere about {{ma|4440}}.* WEB, Early Earth Likely Had Continents And Was Habitable, 2005-11-17,weblink yes,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20081014081528weblink">weblink 2008-10-14, * JOURNAL, Cavosie, A. J., J. W. Valley, S. A., Wilde, E.I.M.F., yes, July 15, 2005, Magmatic δ18O in 4400–3900 Ma detrital zircons: A record of the alteration and recycling of crust in the Early Archean, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 235, 3–4, 663–681, 10.1016/j.epsl.2005.04.028,weblink 2005E&PSL.235..663C, However, there is evidence on the Moon of a Late Heavy Bombardment from {{ma|4000|3800}}. If, as seems likely, such a bombardment struck Earth at the same time, the first atmosphere and oceans may have been stripped away.JOURNAL, Dauphas, N., Robert, F., Marty, B.
date=December 2000, The Late Asteroidal and Cometary Bombardment of Earth as Recorded in Water Deuterium to Protium Ratio issue=2 doi=10.1006/icar.2000.6489 bibcode=2000Icar..148..508D, The oldest clear evidence of life on Earth dates to {{ma|3000}}, although there have been reports, often disputed, of fossil bacteria from {{ma|3400}} and of geochemical evidence for the presence of life {{ma|3800}}.JOURNAL, Schopf, J., Fossil evidence of Archaean life, Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 361, 1470, 869–85, 2006, 16754604, 10.1098/rstb.2006.1834, 1578735, Some scientists have proposed that life on Earth was "seeded" from elsewhere,* ARRHENIUS, S. > TITLE=THE PROPAGATION OF LIFE IN SPACE, 1903volume=7, 1980qel..book...32A, 32, Reprinted in GOLDSMITH, D. > TITLE=THE QUEST FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE ISBN=0-19-855704-3, * JOURNAL, Hoyle, F., Wickramasinghe, C. date=1979, On the Nature of Interstellar Grains volume=66, 77–90, 10.1007/BF00648361, 1979Ap&SS..66...77H, * CRICK > FIRST = F. H. FIRST2 = L. E., Directed Panspermia volume = 19 date = 1973 bibcode=1973Icar...19..341CAbiogenesis>arisen independently on Earth.PERETó, J. >TITLE=CONTROVERSIES ON THE ORIGIN OF LIFE FORMAT=PDF VOLUME=8 PAGES=23–31 PMID=15906258 DEADURL=YES ARCHIVEDATE=AUGUST 24, 2015, For about 2,000 million years microbial mats, multi-layered colonies of different types of bacteria, were the dominant life on Earth.BOOK, Biofilm, Biodictyon, Biomat Microbialites, Oolites, Stromatolites, Geophysiology, Global Mechanism, Parahistology, Krumbein, W.E., Brehm, U., Gerdes, G., Gorbushina, A.A., Levit, G., Palinska, K.A., yes, 1–28, Fossil and Recent Biofilms: A Natural History of Life on Earth, Krumbein, W.E., Paterson, D.M., Zavarzin, G.A., 2003, Kluwer Academic, 1-4020-1597-6,weblink July 9, 2008, yes,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20070106201614weblink">weblink January 6, 2007, The evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis enabled them to play the major role in the oxygenation of the atmosphereTHE ROLE OF MICROBIAL MATS IN THE PRODUCTION OF REDUCED GASES ON THE EARLY EARTH > AUTHOR=HOEHLER, T.M. AUTHOR3=DES MARAIS, D.J. JOURNAL=NATURE PAGES=324–327 DOI=10.1038/35085554, 11460161, 6844, from about {{ma|2400}}. This change in the atmosphere increased their effectiveness as nurseries of evolution.JOURNAL
, Archaean metabolic evolution of microbial mats, Nisbet, E.G., Fowler, C.M.R., yes
, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, December 7, 1999
, 266, 1436, 2375, 10.1098/rspb.1999.0934, 1690475
,
While eukaryotes, cells with complex internal structures, may have been present earlier, their evolution speeded up when they acquired the ability to transform oxygen from a poison to a powerful source of energy in their metabolism. This innovation may have come from primitive eukaryotes capturing oxygen-powered bacteria as endosymbionts and transforming them into organelles called mitochondria.JOURNAL, Gray MW, Burger G, Lang BF, Mitochondrial evolution, Science, 283, 5407, 1476–81, March 1999, 10066161, 10.1126/science.283.5407.1476, 1999Sci...283.1476G, 3428767, The earliest evidence of complex eukaryotes with organelles such as mitochondria, dates from {{ma|1850}}.
File:Opabinia BW2.jpg| thumb | left| Opabinia made the largest single contribution to modern interest in the Cambrian explosionCambrian explosionMulticellular life is composed only of eukaryotic cells, and the earliest evidence for it is the Francevillian Group Fossils from {{ma|2100}},JOURNAL, El Albani, Abderrazak, Bengtson, Stefan, Canfield, Donald E., Bekker, Andrey, Macchiarelli, Reberto, Large colonial organisms with coordinated growth in oxygenated environments 2.1 Gyr ago, Nature, 466, 7302, 100–104, July 2010, 20596019, 10.1038/nature09166, 2010Natur.466..100A, Mazurier, Arnaud, Hammarlund, Emma U., Boulvais, Philippe, Dupuy, Jean-Jacques, 8, although specialisation of cells for different functions first appears between {{ma|1430}} (a possible fungus) and {{ma|1200}} (a probable red alga). Sexual reproduction may be a prerequisite for specialisation of cells, as an asexual multicellular organism might be at risk of being taken over by rogue cells that retain the ability to reproduce.JOURNAL, Butterfield, N.J., September 2000, Bangiomorpha pubescens n. gen., n. sp.: implications for the evolution of sex, multicellularity, and the Mesoproterozoic/Neoproterozoic radiation of eukaryotes, Paleobiology, 26, 3, 386–404, 10.1666/0094-8373(2000)0262.0.CO;2,weblink 2008-09-02, 0094-8373, 2000, no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20070307035241weblink">weblink 2007-03-07, JOURNAL, Butterfield, N.J., 2005, Probable Proterozoic fungi, Paleobiology, 31, 1, 165–182, 10.1666/0094-8373(2005)0312.0.CO;2,weblink 2008-09-02, 0094-8373, no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20090129211124weblink">weblink 2009-01-29, The earliest known animals are cnidarians from about {{ma|580}}, but these are so modern-looking that the earliest animals must have appeared before then.JOURNAL
, Chen, J.-Y.
, Oliveri, P.
, Gao, F.
, Dornbos, S.Q.
, Li, C-W.
, Bottjer, D.J.
, Davidson, E.H.
, yes
, Precambrian Animal Life: Probable Developmental and Adult Cnidarian Forms from Southwest China
, Developmental Biology
, 248
, 1
, August 2002
, 10.1006/dbio.2002.0714
, PDF
, 182–196
,weblink's/Chen%20et%20al.%202002.pdf
, September 3, 2008
, 12142030
, yes
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080911075353weblink">weblink
, September 11, 2008
,
, Early fossils of animals are rare because they did not develop mineralised hard parts that fossilise easily until about {{ma|548}}.JOURNAL
, Bengtson, S.
, Lipps, J.H.
, Waggoner, B.M.
, Neoproterozoic â€” Cambrian Biological Revolutions
, 2004
, Paleontological Society Papers
, 10
, 67–78
,weblink
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20170211103042weblink">weblink
, yes
, 2017-02-11
, July 18, 2008
, The earliest modern-looking bilaterian animals appear in the Early Cambrian, along with several "weird wonders" that bear little obvious resemblance to any modern animals. There is a long-running debate about whether this Cambrian explosion was truly a very rapid period of evolutionary experimentation; alternative views are that modern-looking animals began evolving earlier but fossils of their precursors have not yet been found, or that the "weird wonders" are evolutionary "aunts" and "cousins" of modern groups.MARSHALL, C.R. > TITLE=EXPLAINING THE CAMBRIAN "EXPLOSION" OF ANIMALS
DATE=2006 PAGES=355–384, 10.1146/annurev.earth.33.031504.103001,weblink bibcode=2006AREPS..34..355M, Vertebrates remained an obscure group until the first fish with jaws appeared in the Late Ordovician.JOURNAL
, Conway Morris, S.
, Once we were worms
, August 2, 2003
, New Scientist
, 179
, 2406
,weblink
, September 5, 2008
, 34
, yes
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080725103609weblink">weblink
, July 25, 2008
,
, BOOK, Sansom I.J., Smith, M.M., Smith, M.P.
date=2001 pages=156–171title=Major Events in Early Vertebrate Evolution isbn=0-415-23370-4, File:Yanoconodon BW.jpg| thumb| At about {{convert|13|cm|in}} the Early Cretaceous Yanoconodon was longer than the average mammal of the time.JOURNAL, Luo, Z., Chen, P., Li, G., Chen, M. date=March 2007, A new eutriconodont mammal and evolutionary development in early mammalsNature (journal)>NatureNature (journal)>NatureThe spread of life from water to land required organisms to solve several problems, including protection against drying out and supporting themselves against gravity.JOURNAL, Russell Garwood, Gregory Edgecombe, yes, 2011, Early terrestrial animals, evolution and uncertainty, Evolution, Education, and Outreach, 4, 3, 489–501, 10.1007/s12052-011-0357-y,weblink "TERRESTRIALIZATION OF ANIMALS" > AUTHOR=SELDEN, P.A., 71–74 editor=Briggs, D.E.G. date=2001 isbn=0-632-05149-3,weblink JOURNAL, Kenrick, P., Crane, P.R., yes, The origin and early evolution of plants on land, Nature, 389, September 1997,weblink PDF, 10.1038/37918, 33, 6646, 1997Natur.389...33K, no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20101217123128weblink">weblink 2010-12-17, BOOK, Laurin, M., How Vertebrates Left the Water, University of California Press, Berkeley, California, USA., 2010, 978-0-520-26647-6, Michel Laurin, The earliest evidence of land plants and land invertebrates date back to about {{ma|476}} and {{ma|490}} respectively.JOURNAL
, MacNaughton, R.B.
, Cole, J.M.
, Dalrymple, R.W.
, Braddy, S.J.
, Briggs, D.E.G.
, Lukie, T.D.
, yes
, First steps on land: Arthropod trackways in Cambrian-Ordovician eolian sandstone, southeastern Ontario, Canada
, Geology
, May 2002
, 30
, 5
, 391–394
, 10.1130/0091-7613(2002)0302.0.CO;2
,weblink
, 2002Geo....30..391M
, 0091-7613
, no
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20060213070247weblink">weblink
, 2006-02-13
,
, The lineage that produced land vertebrates evolved later but very rapidly between {{ma|370}} and {{ma|360}};JOURNAL, Gordon, M.S, Graham, J.B., Wang, T.
title=Revisiting the Vertebrate Invasion of the Land volume=77, 5 doi=10.1086/425182, 697–699, recent discoveries have overturned earlier ideas about the history and driving forces behind their evolution.CLACK, J.A. > TITLE=GETTING A LEG UP ON LANDDATE = NOVEMBER 2005 ACCESSDATE=SEPTEMBER 6, 2008, Jennifer A. Clack, Land plants were so successful that they caused an ecological crisis in the Late Devonian, until the evolution and spread of fungi that could digest dead wood.File:House sparrow04.jpg|thumb|right|Birds are the only surviving dinosaurdinosaurDuring the Permian period synapsids, including the ancestors of mammals, may have dominated land environments,SIDOR, C.A. > AUTHOR-LINK=SIDOR, C.A., O'Keefe, F.R., Damiani, R., Steyer, J.S., Smith, R.M.H., Larsson, H.C.E., Sereno, P.C., Ide, O, Maga, A., yesdate=April 2005 volume=434 doi=10.1038/nature03393, 15829962, 7035Permian–Triassic extinction event {{ma>251}} came very close to wiping out complex life.BENTON M.J. > DATE=2005, When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time isbn=978-0-500-28573-2, The extinctions were apparently fairly sudden, at least among vertebrates.JOURNAL, Ward, P.D., 4, Botha, J., Buick, R., Kock, M.O., Erwin, D.H., Garrisson, G.H., Kirschvink, J.L., Smith, R., 2005, Abrupt and gradual extinction among late Permian land vertebrates in the Karoo Basin, South Africa, Science, 307, 709–714, 10.1126/science.1107068, 15661973, 5710, 2005Sci...307..709W,weblink no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20120813061414weblink">weblink 2012-08-13, During the slow recovery from this catastrophe a previously obscure group, archosaurs, became the most abundant and diverse terrestrial vertebrates. One archosaur group, the dinosaurs, were the dominant land vertebrates for the rest of the Mesozoic,BENTON, M.J. > DATE=MARCH 1983, Dinosaur Success in the Triassic: a Noncompetitive Ecological Model volume=58, 1, 29, 10.1086/413056 accessdate=September 8, 2008, and birds evolved from one group of dinosaurs.BOOK, Padian, Kevin., 2004, Basal Avialae, Weishampel, David B., David B. Weishampel, Dodson, Peter, Peter Dodson, Osmólska, Halszka, The Dinosauria, Second, Berkeley, University of California Press, 210–231, 0-520-24209-2, During this time mammals' ancestors survived only as small, mainly nocturnal insectivores, but this apparent set-back may have accelerated the development of mammalian traits such as endothermy and hair.JOURNAL, Ruben, J.A., Jones, T.D., yes, Selective Factors Associated with the Origin of Fur and Feathers, American Zoologist, 2000, 40, 4, 585–596, 10.1093/icb/40.4.585,weblink no,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080906224656weblink">weblink 2008-09-06, After the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event {{ma|66}}JOURNAL, Renne, Paul R., Deino, Alan L., Hilgen, Frederik J., Kuiper, Klaudia F., Mark, Darren F., Mitchell, William S., Morgan, Leah E., Mundil, Roland, Smit, Jan, Time Scales of Critical Events Around the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary, Science, 7 February 2013, 339, 6120, 684–687, 10.1126/science.1230492, 23393261,weblink 2013Sci...339..684R, killed off the non-avian dinosaurs â€“ birds are the only surviving dinosaurs â€“ mammals increased rapidly in size and diversity, and some took to the air and the sea.ALROY J. >DATE=MARCH 1999, The fossil record of North American mammals: evidence for a Paleocene evolutionary radiation volume=48 pages=107–18, 12078635, 10.1080/106351599260472, JOURNAL, Simmons, N.B., Seymour, K.L., Habersetzer, J., Gunnell, G.F.date=February 2008, Primitive Early Eocene bat from Wyoming and the evolution of flight and echolocation volume=451 doi=10.1038/nature06549, 18270539, 7180 url=http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/62816/1/nature06549.pdf, J. G. M. THEWISSEN>AUTHOR2 = S. I. MADARLAST-AUTHOR-AMP = YESAMBULOCETUS NATANS, AN EOCENE CETACEAN (MAMMALIA) FROM PAKISTAN>JOURNAL = COURIER FORSCHUNGSINSTITUT SENCKENBERGPAGES = 1–86, 1996, Fossil evidence indicates that flowering plants appeared and rapidly diversified in the Early Cretaceous, between {{ma|130}} and {{ma|90}}.BOOK, Crane, P.R., Friis, E.M., Pedersen, K.R., yes pages=233–250 editor=Gee, H. date=2000, 0-226-28496-4,weblink Their rapid rise to dominance of terrestrial ecosystems is thought to have been propelled by coevolution with pollinating insects.JOURNAL
, Crepet, W.L.
, November 2000
, Progress in understanding angiosperm history, success, and relationships: Darwin's abominably "perplexing phenomenon"
, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, 97
, 24
, 12939–12941
,weblink
, September 9, 2008
, 10.1073/pnas.97.24.12939
, 11087846
, 34068
, 2000PNAS...9712939C
, no
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, September 24, 2015
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, Social insects appeared around the same time and, although they account for only small parts of the insect "family tree", now form over 50% of the total mass of all insects.JOURNAL
, Wilson, E.O.
, Hölldobler, B.
, yes
, Eusociality: Origin and consequences
, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, September 2005
, 102
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, 13367–13371
, 10.1073/pnas.0505858102
,weblink
, September 7, 2008
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, 2005PNAS..10213367W
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, Humans evolved from a lineage of upright-walking apes whose earliest fossils date from over {{ma|6}}.JOURNAL, Brunet M., Guy, F., Pilbeam, D., Mackaye, H.T., A new hominid from the Upper Miocene of Chad, Central Africa
volume=418 date=July 2002, 10.1038/nature00879, 12110880, 6894, and others, 1, Although early members of this lineage had chimp-sized brains, about 25% as big as modern humans', there are signs of a steady increase in brain size after about {{ma|3}}.JOURNAL, De Miguel, C., M. Henneberg, M., yes, Variation in hominid brain size: How much is due to method? issue=1, 2001 volume=52, 3–58,weblink There is a long-running debate about whether modern humans are descendants of a single small population in Africa, which then migrated all over the world less than 200,000 years ago and replaced previous hominine species, or arose worldwide at the same time as a result of interbreeding.BOOK, Leakey, Richard, The Origin of Humankind, Basic Books, New York, NY, 1994, Science Masters Series, 87–89, 0-465-05313-0, {{Clear}}

Mass extinctions

{{annotated image/Extinction|caption=Apparent extinction intensity, i.e. the fraction of genera going extinct at any given time, as reconstructed from the fossil record (graph not meant to include recent epoch of Holocene extinction event)}}Life on earth has suffered occasional mass extinctions at least since {{ma|542}}. Although they are disasters at the time, mass extinctions have sometimes accelerated the evolution of life on earth. When dominance of particular ecological niches passes from one group of organisms to another, it is rarely because the new dominant group is "superior" to the old and usually because an extinction event eliminates the old dominant group and makes way for the new one.BOOK, Benton, M.J., Vertebrate Palaeontology, Blackwell, 2004, 6. Reptiles Of The Triassic,weblink November 17, 2008, 0-04-566002-6, JOURNAL, Van Valkenburgh, B., 1999, Major patterns in the history of xarnivorous mammals, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 27, 463–493, 10.1146/annurev.earth.27.1.463, 1999AREPS..27..463V, The fossil record appears to show that the rate of extinction is slowing down, with both the gaps between mass extinctions becoming longer and the average and background rates of extinction decreasing. However, it is not certain whether the actual rate of extinction has altered, since both of these observations could be explained in several ways:WEB, 2001-01-06, Norman, MacLeod, Extinction!,weblink September 11, 2008, yes,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080404150811weblink">weblink April 4, 2008,
  • The oceans may have become more hospitable to life over the last 500 million years and less vulnerable to mass extinctions: dissolved oxygen became more widespread and penetrated to greater depths; the development of life on land reduced the run-off of nutrients and hence the risk of eutrophication and anoxic events; marine ecosystems became more diversified so that food chains were less likely to be disrupted.JOURNAL, Martin, R.E., 1995, Cyclic and secular variation in microfossil biomineralization: clues to the biogeochemical evolution of Phanerozoic oceans, Global and Planetary Change, 11, 1, 10.1016/0921-8181(94)00011-2, 1
DATE=1996 JOURNAL=PALAIOS PAGES=209–219 ISSUE=3, 3515230, 1996Palai..11..209M,
  • Reasonably complete fossils are very rare, most extinct organisms are represented only by partial fossils, and complete fossils are rarest in the oldest rocks. So paleontologists have mistakenly assigned parts of the same organism to different genera, which were often defined solely to accommodate these finds â€“ the story of Anomalocaris is an example of this.BOOK
PAGES=194–206 AUTHORLINK=STEPHEN JAY GOULD PUBLISHER=HUTCHINSON RADIUS, 0-09-174271-4, The risk of this mistake is higher for older fossils because these are often unlike parts of any living organism. Many "superfluous" genera are represented by fragments that are not found again, and these "superfluous" genera appear to become extinct very quickly.{{Clear}}{{Phanerozoic biodiversity}}Biodiversity in the fossil record, which is
"the number of distinct genera alive at any given time; that is, those whose first occurrence predates and whose last occurrence postdates that time"
shows a different trend: a fairly swift rise from {{ma|542|400}}, a slight decline from {{ma|400|200}}, in which the devastating Permian–Triassic extinction event is an important factor, and a swift rise from {{ma|200}} to the present.JOURNAL
, Rohde, R.A.
, Muller, R.A.
, yes
, Cycles in fossil diversity
, March 2005
, Nature
, 434
, 208–210
,weblink
, PDF
, September 22, 2008
, 10.1038/nature03339
, 15758998
, 7030
, 2005Natur.434..208R
, no
,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20081003221929weblink">weblink
, October 3, 2008
,
,

History

{{Further|Timeline of paleontology}}File:Cuvier elephant jaw.jpg|thumb|left|This illustration of an Indian elephant jaw and a mammoth jaw (top) is from Cuvier's 1796 paper on living and fossil elephants.]]Although paleontology became established around 1800, earlier thinkers had noticed aspects of the fossil record. The ancient Greek philosopher Xenophanes (570–480 BC) concluded from fossil sea shells that some areas of land were once under water.RUDWICK>FIRST=MARTIN J.S., Martin J. S. Rudwick
page=39date=1985isbn=0-226-73103-0, During the Middle Ages the Persian naturalist Ibn Sina, known as Avicenna in Europe, discussed fossils and proposed a theory of petrifying fluids on which Albert of Saxony elaborated in the 14th century.RUDWICK>FIRST=MARTIN J.S., Martin J. S. Rudwick page=24date=1985isbn=0-226-73103-0, The Chinese naturalist Shen Kuo (1031–1095) proposed a theory of climate change based on the presence of petrified bamboo in regions that in his time were too dry for bamboo.NEEDHAM>FIRST=JOSEPH, Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China: Volume 3, Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the Earth publisher=Caves Books Ltdisbn=0-253-34547-2, In early modern Europe, the systematic study of fossils emerged as an integral part of the changes in natural philosophy that occurred during the Age of Reason. In the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo Da Vinci made various significant contributions to the field as well designed numerous fossils. At the end of the 18th century Georges Cuvier's work established comparative anatomy as a scientific discipline and, by proving that some fossil animals resembled no living ones, demonstrated that animals could become extinct, leading to the emergence of paleontology.MCGOWAN>FIRST=CHRISTOPHERTHE DRAGON SEEKERS > PAGES=3–4DATE=2001, 0-7382-0282-7, The expanding knowledge of the fossil record also played an increasing role in the development of geology, particularly stratigraphy.PALMER, D. > DATE=2005, Earth Time: Exploring the Deep Past from Victorian England to the Grand Canyon isbn=9780470022214, The first half of the 19th century saw geological and paleontological activity become increasingly well organised with the growth of geologic societies and museumsGREENE>FIRST=MARJORIE, David Depew pages=128–130date=2004, 0-521-64371-6, BOWLER>FIRST=PETER J.TITLE=MAKING MODERN SCIENCE, 168–169date=2005, 0-226-06861-7, and an increasing number of professional geologists and fossil specialists. Interest increased for reasons that were not purely scientific, as geology and paleontology helped industrialists to find and exploit natural resources such as coal.RUDWICK>FIRST=MARTIN J.S., Martin J. S. Rudwick pages=200–201date=1985isbn=0-226-73103-0, This contributed to a rapid increase in knowledge about the history of life on Earth and to progress in the definition of the geologic time scale, largely based on fossil evidence. In 1822 Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blanville, editor of Journal de Physique, coined the word "palaeontology" to refer to the study of ancient living organisms through fossils.RUDWICK>FIRST=MARTIN J.S., Martin J. S. Rudwickpage=48date=2008, 0-226-73128-6, As knowledge of life's history continued to improve, it became increasingly obvious that there had been some kind of successive order to the development of life. This encouraged early evolutionary theories on the transmutation of species.BOOK, Buckland W, Gould SJ, yes, Geology and Mineralogy Considered With Reference to Natural Theology (History of Paleontology), 1980, Ayer Company Publishing, 978-0-405-12706-9, After Charles Darwin published Origin of Species in 1859, much of the focus of paleontology shifted to understanding evolutionary paths, including human evolution, and evolutionary theory.File:Haikouichthys4.png| thumb | right | 518}} in China, may be the earliest known fish.{{citation | title = Head and backbone of the Early Cambrian vertebrate Haikouichthys | journal = Nature | first11 = H. -Q. | first1 = D. G. | last11 = Liu | last1 = Shu | first2 = S. C. | first10 = Y. | last2 = Morris | first3 = J. | last3 = Han | first4 = Z. F. | last4 = Zhang | last10 = Li | first5 = K. | last5 = Yasui | first6 = P. | last6 = Janvier | first7 = L. | last7 = Chen | first8 = X. L. | last8 = Zhang | first9 = J. N. | last9 = Liu | volume = 421 | issue = 6922 | doi = 10.1038/nature01264 | bibcode = 2003Natur.421..526S | pmid = 12556891 | url =weblink | pages = 526–529 | date = 2003 | deadurl = no | archiveurl =weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20151124194721weblink">weblink | archivedate = 2015-11-24 | df = }}The last half of the 19th century saw a tremendous expansion in paleontological activity, especially in North America.EVERHART>FIRST=MICHAEL J.OCEANS OF KANSAS: A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE WESTERN INTERIOR SEA > PAGE=17DATE=2005, 0-253-34547-2, The trend continued in the 20th century with additional regions of the Earth being opened to systematic fossil collection. Fossils found in China near the end of the 20th century have been particularly important as they have provided new information about the earliest evolution of animals, early fish, dinosaurs and the evolution of birds.GEE, H. > TITLE=RISE OF THE DRAGON: READINGS FROM NATURE ON THE CHINESE FOSSIL RECORD ISBN=0-226-28491-3, 276,weblink University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill. ;London, The last few decades of the 20th century saw a renewed interest in mass extinctions and their role in the evolution of life on Earth.BOWLER>FIRST=PETER J., Peter J. BowlerEvolution:The History of an Idea > pages=351–352date=2003, 0-520-23693-9, There was also a renewed interest in the Cambrian explosion that apparently saw the development of the body plans of most animal phyla. The discovery of fossils of the Ediacaran biota and developments in paleobiology extended knowledge about the history of life back far before the Cambrian.Increasing awareness of Gregor Mendel's pioneering work in genetics led first to the development of population genetics and then in the mid-20th century to the modern evolutionary synthesis, which explains evolution as the outcome of events such as mutations and horizontal gene transfer, which provide genetic variation, with genetic drift and natural selection driving changes in this variation over time.BOWLER>FIRST=PETER J., Peter J. BowlerEvolution:The History of an Idea > pages=325–339date=2003, 0-520-23693-9, Within the next few years the role and operation of DNA in genetic inheritance were discovered, leading to what is now known as the "Central Dogma" of molecular biology.WEB
, Crick, F.H.C.
, On degenerate templates and the adaptor hypothesis
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,weblink
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,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20081001223217weblink">weblink
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,
, In the 1960s molecular phylogenetics, the investigation of evolutionary "family trees" by techniques derived from biochemistry, began to make an impact, particularly when it was proposed that the human lineage had diverged from apes much more recently than was generally thought at the time.JOURNAL, Sarich V.M., Wilson A.C.
title=Immunological time scale for hominid evolution volume=158 date=December 1967 url=http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/158/3805/1200, September 21, 2008, 10.1126/science.158.3805.1200, 4964406, 1967Sci...158.1200S, Although this early study compared proteins from apes and humans, most molecular phylogenetics research is now based on comparisons of RNA and DNA.BOOK, Page, R.D.M, Holmes, E.C. title=Molecular Evolution: A Phylogenetic Approach, 2 isbn=0-86542-889-1, Blackwell Science, Oxford,

See also

{{div col|colwidth=30em}}
  • {{annotated link|Biostratigraphy}}
  • {{annotated link|European land mammal age}}
  • {{annotated link|Fossil collecting}}
  • {{annotated link|List of fossil sites}} (with link directory)
  • {{annotated link|List of notable fossils}}
  • {{annotated link|List of paleontologists}}
  • {{annotated link|List of transitional fossils}}
  • {{annotated link|Paleobotany}}
  • {{annotated link|Paleogenetics}}
  • {{annotated link|Paleontographer}}
  • {{annotated link|Paleophycology}}
  • {{annotated link|Radiometric dating}}
  • {{annotated link|Taxonomy of commonly fossilised invertebrates}}
  • {{annotated link|Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology}}
{{div col end}}{{Clear}}

References

{{Reflist|30em}}

External links

{{Sister project links|voy=Paleontology}} {{Biology-footer}}{{Geology}}{{Good article}}{{Authority control}}


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