Paleontology Lecture Notes

Paleontology Lecture Notes - PALEO LECTURE PAGE 1 I Tales...

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PALEO LECTURE, PAGE 1 I. Tales Told by the Dead A. Paleontology - study of ancient life Fossil = any evidence of prehistoric life 1. Paleozoology - study of fossil animals a. Invertebrate paleontology - study of fossil invertebrates (animals without a vertebral column) b. Vertebrate paleontology - study of fossil vertebrates (animals with a vertebral column) 2. Paleobotany - study of fossil plants a. Palynology - study of pollen and spores (some also include marine one celled "plants"; i.e. acritarchs, dinoflagellates, tasmanites, silicoflagellates, diatoms, ebridians, calcareous nannoplankton/coccoliths) 3. Micropaleontology - study of small fossils (includes many groups mentioned under palynology and also foraminifera, radiolaria, chitinozoa, graptolites, pteropods (gastropods), ostracods (crustaceans), conodonts B. Objectives of the paleontologist 1. Identification 2. Determine Form (= Morphology) and Function 3. Association of plants and animals and environmental reconstruction (paleoecology) 4. Evolution in Various Organisms 5. Dispersal and distribution of plants and animals through space and time (including studies of paleozoogeography/paleogeography and biostratigraphy) 6. Correlation and Dating Rocks 7. Studies of Geochemistry - especially changes in ocean chemistry due to actions of organisms C. Prerequisites/Preferred Conditions for fossilization: 1. Relatively abundant organisms 2. Presence of hard parts
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3. Avoid chemical and physical destruction - rapid burial, typically within a relatively low energy depositional environment - preservation depends on Eh/pH environment; plants often preserved within acidic and reducing conditions; calcareous shells and bones typically within non-acidic D. Types of Hard Parts 1. Plants a. Cellulose - fibrous polysaccharide forming cell walls b. Lignin - complex polymer binding cellulose fibers 2. Invertebrates a. Organic Compounds include: a1. Chitin = nitrogen-containing polysaccharide (carbohydrate) forming fibrous molecules; Ex. = arthropods a2. Scleroproteins = fibrous proteins such as collagen (Ex. = graptolites) and conchiolin (Ex. = molluscs) b. Minerals include: b1. Calcium carbonate = forms intergrowth of crystals in an organic matrix; includes calcite (Ex. = echinoderms) and aragonite (Ex. = some molluscs; aragonite is a chemically-unstable mineral and typically recrystallizes to calcite) b2. Opaline silica = often occurs as spicules (discrete parts; Ex. = some sponges) or forms coherent network (ex. = radiolarians) 3. Vertebrates a. Bone = collagen (a scleroprotein) hardened by mineral salts (mostly calcium phosphate); with cellular structure b. Cartilage = a resilient, partially fibrous protein; usually not preserved c. Teeth = with dense calcium salts overlain by enamel (almost pure calcium phosphate and carbonate) E. Types of Fossil Preservation 1. Unaltered a.Unaltered Soft Parts - unstable organic compounds such as carbon, hydrogen and oxygen
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PALEO LECTURE, PAGE 3 - rarely preserved; sometimes within permafrost (Ex. = mammoths) or glaciers, mummification in dry caves (ground sloths), tanning by humic acids in peat (Ex. = "bog people"), within
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