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Paleontology (/ˌpeɪliɒnˈtɒlədʒi,ˌpæli-,-ən-/), also spelled palaeontology or palæontology, is the scientific study of life that existed prior to, and sometimes including, the start of the Holoceneepoch (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 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 has been used since 1822 formed from Greekπαλαιός ('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 it 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...)
Saadanius had a longer face than living catarrhines and lacked the advanced frontal sinus (airspaces in the facial bones) found in living catarrhines. However, it had a bony ear tube (ectotympanic) and teeth comparable to those of living catarrhines. The discovery of Saadanius may help answer questions about the evolution and appearance of the last common ancestors of Old World monkeys and apes. (see more...)
Cope had little formal scientific training, and he eschewed a teaching position for field work. He made regular trips to the American West prospecting in the 1870s and 1880s, often as a member of United States Geological Survey teams. A personal feud between Cope and paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh led to a period of intense fossil-finding competition now known as the Bone Wars. Cope's financial fortunes soured after failed mining ventures in the 1880s. He experienced a resurgence in his career toward the end of his life before dying in 1897.
Cope's scientific pursuits nearly bankrupted him, but his contributions helped to define the field of American paleontology. He was a prodigious writer, with 1,400 papers published over his lifetime, although his rivals would debate the accuracy of his rapidly published works. He discovered, described, and named more than 1,000 vertebrate species including hundreds of fishes and dozens of dinosaurs. His proposals on the origin of mammalian molars and for the gradual enlargement of mammalian species over geologic time ("Cope's Law") are notable among his theoretical contributions. (see more...)