Skip to content
Personal tools

CU Natural History Collections

Home > Museum of the Earth > What Paleontology Is Page

What Paleontology Is Page

Document Actions

Land of the Lost


What is Paleontology? | Current Applications

Although our understanding of the prehistoric age might spring from 'Land of the Lost', we rely on paleontology to inform us of what occurred over 20 million years ago.

So what is paleontology?

Paleontology is the study of past life on earth through fossils which informs us about current life such as humans, animals and plants. Additionally, the study of all animal or plant-based fossils enables us to follow the development of life on earth throughout the ages. However, paleontology is an incredibly vast field, possessing subdivisions dedicated to studying specific permutations of  animal or plant life, including:

  • Human Paleontology (AKA Paleoanthropology), known as the study of prehistoric man and his fossils
  • Micropaleontology, the study of microscopic fossils
  • Paleobotany, the research of plant fossils
  • Palynology, the investigation of pollen and spores
  • Invertebrate Paleontology, the understanding of animals without spines
  • Vertebrate Paleontology, the study of fossils of Fossils of animals with spines such as fish or mammals
  • Paleoecology, the discovery of past climates
  • Taphonomy, the study of fossils, their development, their decomposition and their preservation
  • Ichnology, the study of fossil prints, tracks and trails, which is also related to taphonomy

Current Applications

While 'Land of the Lost,' a 1970s television series about a prehistoric world, clearly circumscribes fantasy, it still pulls its imagining of dinosaurs, 'cavemen', and mysterious fauna from paleontological studies. Yet, outside of the entertainment industry and inside the world of fossil fuel, paleontology assists the oil industry in determining the age of rocks and contemporary fuel sources. PRI derived its early funding from oil analysts and their employers.

Sources:

  • http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/FAQ/whatispaleo.html
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleontology

Image provided by Mark Miller via MorgueFile.com -

Created by acn22
Last modified 2008-11-06 13:55