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Introduction

A paleontologist at work at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Paleontology, sometimes spelled palaeontology, (/ˌpliɒnˈtɒləi, ˌpæli-, -ən-/) 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

Artist's restoration of Ampelosaurus.
Ampelosaurus is a titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur hailing from the Late Cretaceous Period of what is now Europe. Its type species is A. atacis, named by Le Loeuff in 1995. A possible unnamed species has given Ampelosaurus an age reaching to the latest Cretaceous, from about 70 to 66 million years ago.

Like most sauropods, it would have had a long neck and tail but it also carried armor in the form of osteoderms. The blade of the scapula, contrary to most titanosaurs, is triangular. The blade narrows at one end instead of showing an expansion like most other genera. Titanosaurians were a flourishing group of sauropod dinosaurs during Cretaceous times. The Spanish locality from the latest Cretaceous of “Lo Hueco” yielded a relatively well preserved, titanosaurian braincase, which shares a number of unique features with A. atacis from France. However, it appeared to differ from A. atacis in some traits also. The specimen has been provisionally identified as Ampelosaurus sp..

Ampelosaurus lived alongside many other animals. Over 8500 specimens have been found alongside it, including gastropods, bivalves, crocodiles, other sauropods, plants and invertebrates in the Villalba de la Sierra, Gres de Saint-Chinian, Marnes Rouges Inférieures and Gres de Labarre formations. Recent attention has made Ampelosaurus one of the most well-known dinosaurs known from France. (see more...)

Selected article on paleontology in human science, culture and economics

Holotype material of Creosaurus atrox, more recently known as Allosaurus atrox.
There have been a number of potential species assigned to the carnosaurian dinosaur genus Allosaurus since its description in 1877 by Othniel Charles Marsh, but only a handful are still regarded as valid. Allosaurus was originally described from material from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of the western United States of America; the type species A. fragilis became one of the best-known species of dinosaur.

The genus Allosaurus was part of the Marsh/Cope "Bone Wars" of the late 19th century, and its taxonomy became increasingly confused due to the competition, with several genera and species named by Cope and Marsh now regarded as synonyms of Allosaurus or A. fragilis. Since the description of Allosaurus, scientists have proposed additional species from such far-flung locales as Portugal, Siberia, Switzerland, and Tanzania, and unnamed remains from Australia and China have also been assigned to the genus at one time or another. (see more...)

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A life restoration of Leptocleidus
A fossil Branchioplax washingtoniana from the Hoko River Formation

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An Australopithecus africanus tooth

A tooth of Australopithecus africanus catalogued by the Transvaal Museum as STS 1881. The specimen is 15.46 × 13.64 × 7.31 mm in size. STS 1881 was discovered near Sterkfontein, South Africa and dates back 2.8 million years.
Photo credit: Didier Descouens

Topics

General - Paleontology - Fossil - Evolution - Extinction
History - History of paleontology - Bone Wars - List of years in paleontology
Locations - List of dinosaur-bearing rock formations - List of fossil sites - Como Bluff - Coon Creek Formation - Dinosaur Cove - Dinosaur National Monument - Dinosaur Park Formation - Dinosaur State Park and Arboretum - Glen Rose Formation - Hell Creek Formation - Lance Formation - Morrison Formation - Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite - Two Medicine Formation
Paleontologists - Mary Anning - Robert T. Bakker - Barnum Brown - William Buckland - Edward Drinker Cope - Jack Horner - Gideon Mantell - Othniel Charles Marsh - John Ostrom - Dong Zhiming
Geologic Time - Paleozoic Era - Cambrian (Early Cambrian - Middle Cambrian - Furongian) - Ordovician (Early Ordovician - Middle Ordovician - Late Ordovician) - Silurian (Llandovery - Wenlock - Ludlow - Pridoli) - Devonian (Early Devonian - Middle Devonian - Late Devonian) - Carboniferous (Mississippian - Pennsylvanian) - Permian (Cisuralian - Guadalupian - Lopingian) - Mesozoic Era - Triassic (Early Triassic - Middle Triassic - Late Triassic) - Jurassic (Early Jurassic - Middle Jurassic - Late Jurassic) - Cretaceous (Early Cretaceous - Late Cretaceous) - Cenozoic Era - Paleogene (Paleocene - Eocene - Oligocene) - Neogene (Miocene - Pliocene) - Quaternary (Pleistocene - Holocene)
Fringe and Pseudoscience - Creationist perspectives on dinosaurs - Living dinosaurs
Popular Culture - Cultural depictions of dinosaurs - Jurassic Park (novel) - Jurassic Park (film) - Stegosaurus in popular culture -Tyrannosaurus in popular culture - Walking with...

Quality Content

Featured paleontology articles - Achelousaurus - Acrocanthosaurus - Albertosaurus - Allosaurus - Amargasaurus - Ankylosaurus - Apatosaurus - Archaeopteryx - Baryonyx - Carnotaurus - Catopsbaatar - Ceratosaurus - Chicxulub Crater - Compsognathus - Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event - Daspletosaurus - Deinocheirus - Deinonychus - Deinosuchus - Dilophosaurus - Dinosaur - Diplodocus - Dromaeosauroides - Edmontosaurus - Elasmosaurus - Giganotosaurus - Gorgosaurus - Herrerasaurus - Iguanodon - Istiodactylus - Lambeosaurus - List of dinosaur genera - Majungasaurus - Massospondylus - Megalodon - Nemegtomaia - Nigersaurus - Opisthocoelicaudia - Paranthodon - Parasaurolophus - Plateosaurus - Psittacosaurus - Seorsumuscardinus - Stegosaurus - Stegoceras - Styracosaurus - Tarbosaurus - Thescelosaurus - Triceratops - Tyrannosaurus - Velociraptor
Good paleontology articles - Abelisauridae - Alioramus - Amphicoelias - Archaeoraptor - Batrachotomus - Ceratopsia - Coelurus - Dromaeosauridae - Giganotosaurus - Gryposaurus - Heterodontosauridae - Herrerasaurus - Hypacrosaurus - Kritosaurus - Othnielosaurus - Pachycephalosaurus - Saurolophus - Sauropelta - Scelidosaurus - Species of Allosaurus - Species of Psittacosaurus - Spinosaurus - Tyrannosauroidea

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