Paleontology, sometimes spelled palaeontology () 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".
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.
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Selected article on the prehistoric world and its legacies
(meaning 'Mahajanga lizard') is a genus
of abelisaurid theropod dinosaur
that lived in Madagascar
from 70 to 65 million years ago
, at the end of the Cretaceous Period
. Only one species
) has been identified. This dinosaur was briefly called Majungatholus
, a name which is now considered a junior synonym
Like other abelisaurids, Majungasaurus was a bipedal predator with a short snout. Although the forelimbs are not completely known, they were very short, while the hindlimbs were longer and very stocky. It can be distinguished from other abelisaurids by its wider skull, the very rough texture and thickened bone on the top of its snout, and the single rounded horn on the roof of its skull, which was originally mistaken for the dome of a pachycephalosaur. It also had more teeth in both upper and lower jaws than most abelisaurids.
Known from several well-preserved skulls and abundant skeletal material, Majungasaurus has recently become one of the best-studied theropod dinosaurs from the Southern Hemisphere. It appears to be most closely related to abelisaurids from India rather than South America or continental Africa, a fact which has important biogeographical implications. Majungasaurus was the apex predator in its ecosystem, mainly preying on sauropods like Rapetosaurus, and is also the only dinosaur for which direct evidence of cannibalism is known. (see more...)
Selected article on paleontology in human science, culture and economics
Jurassic Park III
is a 2001 American science fiction adventure monster film
. It is the third installment in the Jurassic Park franchise
and a sequel to the 1997 film The Lost World: Jurassic Park
. It is the series' first film that was not directed by Steven Spielberg
nor based on a book by Michael Crichton
(though numerous scenes in the film were ultimately taken from Crichton's novels Jurassic Park
and The Lost World
). The film takes place on Isla Sorna, off Central America
's Pacific coast, the island featured in the second film
, where a divorced couple has tricked Dr. Alan Grant
into going in order to help them find their son.
After the success of Spielberg's Jurassic Park, Joe Johnston expressed interest in directing a sequel, a film adaptation of The Lost World. Spielberg instead gave Johnston permission to direct the third film in the series, if there were to be one. Production of Jurassic Park III began on August 30, 2000. Upon its release, the film received mixed reviews, with many praising the visual effects and action scenes but finding the plot clichéd and unoriginal. Despite being less well-received than the previous films, Jurassic Park III was a box office success, grossing $368 million worldwide. (see more...)
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Did you know?
- ... that within the United States, dinosaur fossils (example pictured) have been found in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Wyoming, but not in Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, or Wisconsin?
- ... that Ekgmowechashala was the only North American genus of primate during the Late Oligocene?
- ... that lice from mummified guinea pigs and mites preserved in amber while feeding on spiders have provided evidence for researchers in the field of paleoparasitology?
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