|This page is about a topic that relates to science, and is not about a particular type of organism.|
Paleontology is the scientific study of prehistoric life through the examination of fossils.
Fossils are the remains of extinct animals. Extinction refers to animals that were once living that are no longer alive, hence the term prehistoric life. These remains include skeletons, tracks, impressions, feces, trails, borings and natural casts. A fossil is also often defined as older than the last glaciation (i.e., older than 10,000 years). Partial remains are named subfossils.
Paleontology refers to the scientific discipline at the junction of biological and geological sciences. Its position is made up of many subdisciplines. These subdisciplines are usually other subdisciplines themselves of either geology or biology. The prefix paleo- is added to distinguish subdisciplines.
List of Subdisciplines Edit
All of these subdisciplines can be found in higher detail at Wikipedia.
Paleobiology: The study of the biology of ancient living organisms.
Paleoecology: The study of the ecology of ancient living organisms.
Taxonomy: The naming and biological relationships of fossils.
Taphonomy: The study of the processes of the formation of fossils (fossilization).
Paleobiogeography: The study of fossil placement, and organism distribution.
Paleoclimatology: The study of prehistoric climate patterns.
Paleobotany: The study of extinct plants.
Paleogeography: The study of geographic formations and features in prehistory.
Paleoneurology: The study of the nervous system in extinct organisms.
Paleopathology: The study of prehistoric diseases and sicknesses, and how they affect their hosts.
Paleopalynology: The study of ancient pollen grains and spores.
Paleochronology: The study of prehistoric events, forming a rough timeline.
Paleoentomology: The study of extinct insects
- Paleontology and Palaeontology are interchangeable, as with all listed subdisciplines. Neither paleo- nor palaeo- are specifically proper, as both are academically accepted, and decided by personal preference.
Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs by Philip J. Currie and Kevin Padian, ISBN 9780080494746, p. 525, entry: Paleontology