Paleobiological Hierarchy

This page is best viewed in desktop mode. If you are using a mobile device, you can switch to desktop site using the switch link at the bottom of the page. Additional tools are available under Geology 491 – Paleobiology and the identification steps chart here. For more in-depth detailed information on how we classify the following fossils, please read, Classification of Fossils.

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Kingdoms (largest divisions)

  • Bacteria
  • Protista
  • Animalia
  • Plantae
  • Fungi

Hierarchy

Note: The classifications used by the University of Calgary may differ from the materials on Wikipedia and other sources. This list is NOT specific to UofC classes such as 391/491. However, this may be used for reducing confusion.

You may find this chart of fossils based on their age useful. You may download them in image format and PDF format. Go save as for download.

Kingdom Animalia

  • Phylum Porifera
    • Class Stromatoporata
      • Genus Stromatoporoids (figure)
    • Phylum Archaeocyatha
    • Phylum Cnidaria
      • Class Anthozoa
        • Sub Class Zoantharia
          • Order Tabulata OrdovicianPermian
            • Genus Catenipora (image1 | image2 | image3 | figure) OrdovicianSilurian
              Chain coral; looks like links on a chain. The cross sectional view is usually have flat lines.
            • Genus Favosites (image1 | image2 | figure) OrdovicianDevonian
              Not to be confused with G: Lithostrotion and G: Hexagonaria. Honeycomb coral; closely packed polygonal and tubular structures. The center of each polygon has a slight depression while the longitudinal sides should have tiny “holes”.
            • Genus Heliolites (figure) SilurianDevonian
              Tubular structures. The cop view will most likely seen as somewhat circular “dots” (but they are actually shaped like flowers”).
            • Genus Syringopora (image1 | image2 | image3 | figure) SilurianPennsylvanian
              Small tubes often in mm in diameter. Often braches and looks like “worms”, “spaghetti” or “string of poop”. Highly concave (saggy) tabulae can be observed on thin section.
          • Order Rugosa OrdovicianPermian
            • Genus Heliophyllum (image1 | image2 | image3 | figure) Lower – Mid Devonian
              If the sample is a complete one, the external shape is look like a “horn”. The inside of structures should have striations which may appear as a floor like from the top cross sectional view.
            • Genus Lithostrotion (image1 | image2 | image3 | figure) MississippianPennsylvanian = Carboniferous
              Not to be confused with G: Favosites and G: Hexagonaria. They looks very similar due to polygonal shape. However, this is NOT closely (“tightly”) packed compared to G: Favosites. They also usually have 2-3 rows of dissepiments and have domed (curved) the tabulae (better to observe on thin section).
            • Genus Hexagonaria (image1 | image2 | image3 | image4) Devonian
              6-8 rows of dissepiments is a unique feature (slide or thin section is better for observation). Colonial life form with flat tabulae.
          • Order Scleractinia (image | figure) TriassicHolocene = Modern day
            Top view may looks like a mafia cut out human brain. But individually they should look like “pellets” of hamster poop. They add the septas in cycles in which each cycle consist of “in-between” additions. For example, if I am a Scleractinia type guy, I would add 6 first then, 6 + 6 + 12 + 12 + 24 + …
    • Phylum Brachiopoda
      • Class Inarticulata (Lingulata)
        • Order Lingulida
            • Genus Lingula (image1 | image2 | image3 | figure) OrdovicianHolocene
              Spatulate Valves with pedicle are placed between the two shells. Should be able to observe elliptical growth lines extending longitudinally on the surface of the shell.
      • Class Articulata
        • Order Terebratulida (image1 | image2 | figure) DevonianHolocene
          Biconvex shape and has large circular/semi-circular pedicle opening. Curved hingeline (look at the side view). The pedicle itself is often not preserved in the fossil record.
          • Genus Oleneothyris (image)
            Note the zig-zag commissure.
        • Order Spiriferida
            • Genus Atrypa (image | figure) SilurianDevonian
            • Genus Cyrtina () SilurianPermian
            • Genus Mucrospirifer (figure) Mid Devonian
              A distinct straight hinge line with a very large delthyrium (triangular shape in the middle). Biconvex shells with very well defined costae. Note this is used in labs as an example for Order Spiriferida.
            • Genus Paraspirifer () Lower – Mid Devonian
        • Order Orthida
        • Order Pentamerida
        • Order Rhynchonellida
        • Order Strophomenida
          • Sub Order Strophomenioina
          • Sub Order Productina
            • Genus Dictyoclostus (image | figure) Mississippian
              Spines (spike like). Chubby fat guy.
    • Phylum Bryozoa
      • Order Cyclostomata
      • Order Cheilostomata
      • Order Fenestrata
        • Genus Fenestella (image) OrdovicianPermian
        • Genus Archimedes (image1 | image2) MississippianPermian
          Screw like zooarium.
      • Order Trepostomata
        • Genus Hallopora (image1 | image2) OrdovicianDevonian
        • Genus Prasopora () Ordovician
    • Phylum Helmichordata
      • Class Graptolithina
        • Order Denoroidea
          • Genus Rhabdinopora (image | figure) Upper Cambrian – Lower Carboniferous
        • Order Graptoloidea
          • Genus Teragraptus (image) Lower Ordovician
            Also can be found in horizontal type in which it the organism looks like a cross/crossing branches. Uniserial variety.
          • Genus Phyllograptus () Lower Ordovician
          • Genus Didymograptus (image) Lower – Upper Ordovician
          • Genus Climacograptus (image | figure) Lower Ordovician
          • Genus Orthograptus (figure) Upper OrdovicianLower Silurian
          • Genus Monograptus (image) Lower SilurianLower Devonian
            Found in both straight and spiral formations.
          • Genus Cyrtograptus (image1 | image2 | figure) Mid Silurian
    • Phylum Chordata (Species Vertebrata (Cranrata))
      • Class Conodonta
        • Genus Streptognathodus (image) Lower PennsylvanianLower Permian
        • Genus Neogondolella () PermianTriassic
        • Genus Polygnathus (image) Lower DevonianLower Mississippian
        • Genus Palmatolepis (image) Upper Devonian
    • Phylum Arthropoda
      • Class Crustacea
        • Sub Class Ostracoda
      • Class Trilobita
        • Order Agnostida
        • Order Phacopida
          • Genus Calymene (figure) Lower SilurianMid Devonian
          • Genus Phacops () SilurianDevonian
        • Order Redlichiida
          • Genus Olenellus (figure) Lower Cambrian
        • Order Ptychoparida
          • Genus Trinucleus (figure) Ordovician
          • Genus Isotelus (figure) Mid – Upper Ordovician
        • Order Proetida (not on exams?)
        • Order Corynexochida (not on exams?)
      • Class Chelicerata
          • Genus Eurypterus
    • Phylum Mollusca
      • Class Gastropoda
        • Genus Bellerophon () OrdovicianTriassic
          T = 0 with involute planispiral coiling. Often find with ribs but with no sutures.
        • Genus Maclurites () Ordovician
          Low T, but not zero. With exceptions to few, almost always found as an internal mold. No sutures and it is trochospiral.
        • Genus Turritella () OligoceneHolocene
          Very very high T and therefore have an elongation along the trochospiral coiling. Dexutual coil.
      • Class Polyplacophora
      • Class Bivalvia
        • Genus Trigonia (figure) TriassicCretaceous
          Schizodont dentition. Curved hingeline. However, you may find fossils without the curved edges due to preservation conditions.
        • Genus Inoceramus (figure) JurassicCretaceous
          Very strong rugae.
        • Genus Mya (figure) OligoceneHolocene
          Spoon-shaped chondrophore.
        • Genus Mercenaria OligoceneHolocene
          Looks very similar to Genus Mya, but lacks the spoon-shaped chondrophore.
        • Genus Exogyra (figure) JurassicCretaceous
          Trochospirak with high translation (coiling out).
        • Genus Gryphaea (figure)
          Similar to Genus Exogyra but it is planispiral hence it curves inwards (“devil’s finger”).
        • Genus Pecten (figure) EoceneHolocene
          Very strong ribs. Auricles (wing-shaped) on both sides for swimming. The larger aurticle points to the anterior direction.
        • Genus Rudistid () Cretaceous
          Not to be confused with corals or bryozoans. Small lids which covers to tops are often missing from lab samples.
      • Class Scaphopoda
      • Class Cephalopoda
        • Sub Class Nautiloidea
          • Genus Euterphoceras
          • Genus Nautilus (figure) OligoceneHolocene
        • Sub Class Actinoceratoidea
        • Sub Class Endoceratoidea
        • Sub Class Bactritoidea
          • Genus Bactrites () DevonianPermian
        • Sub Class Ammonoidea
          • Order Goniatitida
            • Genus Tornoceras () Devonian
            • Genus Goniatites () Mississippian
          • Order Ceratitida
            • Genus Ceratites () Mid Triassic
          • Order Ammonitida
            • Genus Dactylioceras () Lower Jurassic
            • Genus Harpoceras () Lower Jurassic
            • Genus Baculites () Upper Cretaceous
            • Genus Scaphites () Upper Cretaceous
        • Sub Class Coleoidea
          • Genus Belemnites (figure) JurassicCretaceous
    • Phylum Echinodermata
      • Class Asteroidea
        • Genus “Starfish” (figure)
          Five fold ( pentameral) symmetry. A good example of a living fossil. Well defined body wall and sometimes the central five side disc may be observed in the center.
      • Class Blastoidea
        • Genus Pentremites (figure) MississippianPennsylvanian = Carboniferous
          Small structures that looks like wrapping around a small ball. The five fold ( pentameral) body is often covered in a “cap” shaped external structure.
      • Class Crinoidea
      • Class Echinoidea
        • Genus Micraster (figure) Upper Cretaceous
        • Genus Dendraster (figure) PlioceneHolocene
          Dome (“circular”) shaped overall structure. Flower like appearance on the surface. Very good example of five-fold radial symmetry on the cross sectional body.
      • Class Edrioasteroid
        • Genus Isorophus () Mid – Upper Ordovician
      • Class Erhombifera (“ctriuds”)
        • Genus Strobilocystites () Mid – Upper Devonian
          Looks like a pellet of poop. Not to be confused with Genus Pentremites. Small dotted “ball” like structures within the five fold star like physical frame.

    Kingdom Protista

    • Phylum Chrysophyta
      • Sub Class Rhizopoda
        • Order Foraminiferida
            • Genus Textularia () PennsylvanianPlioceneHolocene
            • Genus Globorotalia () PlioceneHolocene
            • Genus Globigerina () PlioceneHolocene
          • Sub Order Fusulinina
            • Genus Schwagerinid wall () Upper PennsylvanianMid Permian




    Why won’t you publish digital photos of the lab samples? Unfortunately I am a member of the Faulty of Science since June 2013. As a result, I am not allow to publish images of lab samples on my site. However, if you would like to have images here, please email your images to me so I can post them on this site. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    How does this colour scheme work? Oh well… like this
    Quaternary
    Holocene = Modern day
    Pleistocene
    Pliocene
    Miocene
    Oligocene
    Eocene
    Paleocene
    Neogene
    Paleogene
    Cretaceous
    Jurasic
    Triassic
    Permian
    Pennsylvanian
    Mississippian
    Devonian
    Silurian
    Ordovician
    Cambrian

    Thank You

    Felicia MacMurchy, Kathleen Nester, Pulkit Sabharwal and Laura A McCowan, University of Calgary (Undergraduate Students)


    How to use a Brunton Compass

    It is essential for a Earth Scientist to be skilled at using the tools of the trade. From day one, students are trained to use the Brunton Compass, a highly popular measuring tool. I am very proud to say it was first designed and developed by a Canadian Geologist, David W. Brunton. If properly used it is a great tool for taking precise geological measurements within few degrees or meters of accuracy.

    Skip Background Jargon

    Parts of the Unit

    Initially the compass was made out of metals which makes the unit very expensive. Recently the Brunton company produce two different versions of their models; one with the original metal body and another with high density plastic. I personally prefer the original unit because I like the weight and feel of it. However, both versions will provide the same results and both versions comes with exact same layout.

    Before start using anything, we need to learn the layout and features of the device. The compass has a hexagonal shape to it’s outside perimeter creating flat perfectly straight surfaces. This is not for aesthetic appeal. The flat surfaces, specially on each side, provide the support for measuring angles of inclines and angles of strike of Geologic features. The base casing has an arm mounted to the body for directional measurements. Even the cover (lid) of the unit has a mirror which function as a sight taking tool. Everything on the Brunton Compass is a tool.

    Features of the Pocket Transit Compass
    Features of the Pocket Transit Compass

    Above image is a picture of typical Brunton Pocket Transit Compass model used by universities and professionals. A list of key components on the base casing can be summarized;

    A – Long Level – Use for taking azimuth measurements of strike.

    B – Circular Level – Use for taking angle measurements of dip.

    C – Iron Needle – Points to magnetic North and it is damped using the magnet below the pivot point. But the bearing can be adjusted accordingly by rotating the declination zero pin.

    D – 360-degree Graduated Circle – Use for azimuth readings that are accurate to half of a degree.

    E – 90-degree Dip Circle – Use for measuring dip using the long level on the vernier.

    F – Needle Pin – Helps to lock the needle in place in order to take a reading.

    G – Vernier – The vernier is used for inclination measurements with an accuracy to 30 minutes.

    H – Rare Earth Magnet – A cast NdFe magnet which allow the iron needle to seek North accurately and quickly. It also reduces the magnetic interferences from the nearby environment.

    J – Declination Zero Pin – An arm behind the compass is used to move the pin. Using tabulated data on magnetic declination, the degree of correction is set.

    Usage

    Here is an example of taking a strike on an inclined surface. Taking dip measurement is not shown here, but it is done by laying the Brunton Compass on the side along the dipping surface. By moving the vernier and long level, you can measure the dip.

    Taking a strike on an inclined surface.
    Taking a strike on an inclined surface. Click on image for original.

    Scientists are running away from problems

    On June 20, 2013 mandatory evacuation orders were issued for Calgary, the Alberta’s largest city by population, as a result of flooding. The days leading up to the “2013 Alberta floods”, Alberta experienced heavy rainfall. The 2013 floods effected several areas such as Exshaw, High River and other municipalities and townships. Later that summer, communities along the rivers banks and flood plains were devastated by the consequences of additional downpour. Several mitigation and disaster response ideas have sprung out of this 2013 Alberta floods. This is where opinions of scientists, researchers and general public clashed. I can safely say we hear a lot of strong arguments on different aspects of the “problem” when our neighborhoods are in desperate situations. We also bombarded with “solutions” to these from our politicians and scientists. As a young scientist in training, I find these two groups in North America either want to go against nature or go against social dynamics.

    Million solutions without progress

    A recent article written by a Geologist on the Calgary Herald newspaper regarding insurance and communities along the flood plains1 drew my attention . It is a well written article against the idea of flood insurance. Dr. Jerry Osborn argued because people are building on flood plains, the premiums for insurance have to increase causing them to be unaffordable for most. He strongly suggested restricting community developments on floodplain using Groeneveld report as a method to protect communities from natural disasters. This is a very good valid point and I agree with the scientific merit behind Dr. Osborn’s argument. However, I have to respectfully disagree with the concept of scientists running away from the problem rather than facing it head-on. I respect Dr. Osborn for being direct about his facts. But at the same time we as a society would have never advanced in our civilization if we ran away from our problems.

    This is not the first time I came across well-respected Canadian scientists and researchers formulate their opinions solely on science itself. I have been told numerous times by Geoscience, Natural Science and Engineering professors on why we should not do something due to natural hazards. The problem is not a matter of if there are natural hazards; the problem is scientists are trying to find reasons to run away from problems. One of the best examples of this would be the arguments against placing our Calgary light railway transit system completely underground. Every time I asked a science expert, the arguments are highly negative such as “Calgary soil and strata is not good for underground projects” or “the engineering community needs more data before undertaking such projects”. It sounds like we will be famous in history for running away from problems because unlike the ancient Romans, Geeks or the modern day Indians or Japanese, we do not try to mitigate environmental dynamics, but we are just running away from it. I believe this attitude of too much emphasis of why we can’t do something, hinders our ability to defend our civilizations from natural disasters.

    Most scientists who opposed building on floodplains in Alberta promote the idea that if we move away from developments in floodplains, most of our problems will be resolved. That is ironic because even according to scientific principles and the history of science shows that no matter what we do, there is always “side effects”. Let’s say that we move all our communities out of the floodplains. What are the implications for the natural environments? What are the implications for the natural environments? How would redistribution of human populations to other areas affect the environment? In Japan, they found building roads have significantly reduced permeability of soils. Hence the drainage systems have to be upgraded to transport the water that is not soaking into the ground to rivers and the sea. It was an unforeseen environmental problem as a result of human development. The point is to solve the flood plain problem; you may have created several more problems without the foresight of long term future for the City of Calgary. In the long term if we move out so much from current Calgary city limits, we would also move into farmlands and other areas of natural resources causing more problems for our communities. It is ironic that nobody who are against building within highly populated floodplains ignore these “side effects” that may arise as a result of any form of development weather it is on the floodplains or not.

    Society and science

    The Government of Japan has spend the tax money wisely to the benefit of the people..

    Human civilization is unique because unlike animals we can make logical decisions. While we do our best to alter our natural habits, we often go back to the nature’s way. Have you ever wonder why we have large communities around flood plains and volcanoes? Almost every single civilization has been built around naturally unstable grounds. It will be unproductive for modern science to work against these natural social habits. You cannot change our social dynamics to fit the principles of science. But rather you should use the find solutions to social dynamics. This is where those scientists against development on the flood plains fall apart.

    Japan has few active volcanoes and suited near a major active fault line. Hence, it is obvious that majority of Japanese are living in environmentally unstable areas than majority of Canadians. If you visit Japan, you will most likely take JR Rail, a service provided by a Japanese state own railway company. Not only the railway line is mostly underground, but they also have large underground shopping complexes in almost all underground train stations. It is ironic that Canadian Geologists and Engineers are against building underground railway system in Calgary because of their claim that ground in Calgary is not suitable. Either we are, as a group of scientist, very lazy or ignorant of possible solutions for our growing needs. I should highlight that I believe the problem of running away is found within our scientific community in Canada rather than the general public.

    Here is another example from Japan. In a CBC documentary a Japanese elderly women who seen the volcano near her house erupted said “I am not afraid of the mountain. It provides great opportunities for farming. I have lived all my life here and I will pull myself back up each time it gets erupted”. Now that should resonate throughout Canada because she is right. She is using the nutrient rich volcanic soils to grow rice, which feeds the community. She works with the environment and she understands the natural hazards. The Japanese scientists are very mindful of not to insult these volcanic famers intelligence. In fact, the Government of Japan has spent the tax money wisely to the benefit of the people of Japan with new equipment and research on predicting natural disasters rather than moving communities away from so called “danger zone”. This is what the Scientists in Canada also supposed to do; work with the society. But instead they are more concerned of the bottom line of private companies. Canada is an extremely pro-¬capitalist nation that we look for the revenue and the profit margin over the natural flow of civilization. In fact, I can argue the reason we do not have completely underground commuter railway system in Calgary not because “unstable ground”, but because the Government and the private companies do not want any project that benefit the society. I can also categorically argue that insurance rates increase because the CEOs of Canadian insurance companies would like to take home million dollar bonus. In other words, the profit margin is more of a concern than human dignity and natural civilization.

    Two extreme ends never solve problems

    With or without the 2013 Alberta floods, these insurance companies will find another avenue to increase premiums.

    The attitude should be, yes we can build on a floodplains. I would argue while Dr. Osborn is right, his principles on flood insurance are wrong. Yes the flood may increase the insurance rates. However, it is Canada’s capitalistic class system that causes the insurance rate to increase. With or without the 2013 Alberta floods, these insurance companies will find another avenue to increase premiums. Canadians are hell bent on criticizing the India’s caste system; we often forget to criticize Canada’s class system. Insurance companies increase their premiums to pay off their rich CEOs, not to help out the Canadian public. Unlike in some areas such as in Europe and Asia, there are no regulations to protect the consumers from insurance companies in Canada.

    While we are busy arguing against people who would want to live in floodplains, we should also highlight other issues. Tight regulations of insurance providers should be one step. Another would be, just like Japan, we should spend our tax revenue on helping our communities. Why not build infrastructures to control floods? Do not say it is not sustainable to run away from the problems. Yes, it is sustainable because there are many other communities around the world have done it! India and Sri Lanka for example not only have relatively cheap (relative to Indian/Sri Lankan average net income) flood insurance, but they also have highly effective drainage system. During the Asian Monsoon season, the capital of Sri Lanka should be under water. But that is not true and the last time it was under water was during the 2004 tsunami. But in Canada, a small rain fall in Toronto in 8 July 2013 resulted in mass flooding. How come a first world nation be so negative?

    Now let’s take the argument of insurance premiums from another point of view. If we have proper infrastructure to divert water away from our major cities along flood plains, why should the insurance premiums for homeowner go up? In fact, it should go down unless the greedy capitalists in Canada want a higher cut for their profit. Dr. Osborn, according Canadians behind you and their logic, ALL Japanese people should commit suicide while ALL Indians and Sri Lankans should drown. To my fellow young Scientists, please do not run away from the problem like typical “Canadians” due to political correctness or to be nice to your professors, but face it like typical “Japanese” or “South Asians”. I am not saying scientific solutions are prefect. But we should think outside the two extremes which our Politicians and Scientists try to promote. It is our responsibility as scientists, to move away from special interest groups and find solutions to challenges rather than running away from them.

    References

    1. Osborn: It’s foolish to think worst flood is behind us (PDF)

    Idc wh@t wrds r +ed 2 dic

    Some linguistics would say OMG WTF (Oh My God What The Fuck) to words and acronyms that came out of the technological age. I asked an English professor how languages evolve. She told me the words are often added to a language in two distinct ways; through academics such as Shakespeare and through general usage. In the last ten years most words added to English dictionary did not come from academics, but rather from general usage.

    Evolution of Modern English

    Unlike in the old days we are heavily depend on electronic devices to communicate with each other. When the telephone was invented, some thought that it will be the end of “letter age”. In 1950s a unit called Pager was introduced to medical staff for faster communication with the hospitals. This trend catch on world wide and almost all hospitals around the world used (and still use) Pagers. The time it takes to transmit data from one client Pager to destination Pager depended on the length of the message being sent. This is because each packet of data (like a photon of light) can only be so big. Longer texts will be “cut in to pieces” transmission. In addition the Pager displays only used one line. Shorter the message easier for the end user to read. Why would you page, “There is a medical emergency. Come in as soon as possible” when you can page “ME ASAP”? I think this is the birth of electronic age acronyms.

    AOL Pager: Message is too long? "Hi mom, How r u doing?"... would be better.
    AOL Pager: Message is too long? “Hi mom, How r u doing?”… would be better.

    But in 1970s Universities and US Government successfully establish a communication system called TCP/IP network (today we call it the Internet). With this the text age has rocketed in it’s popularity. Now the Pager and the Internet has effectively replaced most conventional letters of the “letter age”. This wide use has created the stage for not only modern languages.

    Spread of English

    English became a popular means of communication thanks to the British imperialism. After World War II, it was boosted by the American and “new world” imperialism. My dad said, “if German and Japanese won the war, today we won’t be speaking English. But rather German and Japanese”. He is right because English is now almost universal.

    The popularity of English can be good and bad depend on how you look at it. It is good because compared to hundreds of dead languages, British did a good job in securing the future of their mother language. On the other hand academic institutions that safeguard the rules of English like the Oxford University has completely lost control over their language. In fact a lot of foreign English speakers (English as a Second Language) have contributed to a lot of new words. In July 2013, English-German dictionary now includes “shitstorm” often used by German Chancellor Angela Merkel(1). It is not just her but also a lot of Germans use “shitstorm” to describe out of control situations. While most of the newly added words are profanities, there are a lot of useful good words as well. For example, the phrase “friend zone” describes as “a situation in which a platonic relationship exists between two people, one of whom has an undeclared romantic or sexual interest in the other”(2). It was officially added to Oxford Dictionary in February 2013.

    Even in the past

    Did you know that Shakespeare invented a lot of words to describe emotions in his plays? British authors were (are) the inventors of new words. Later by the South Africans, Australians, Americans and Canadians also added millions of new words to English language. I find it hypocritical about some modern conservative academics argue against addition of new words. From what I understand, there are more English words originate outside of native English speaking countries than any other language on Earth. Which makes English stronger and better not weaker!

    In case you still cannot read the title of this article; Idc wh@t wrds r +ed 2 dic = I don’t care what words are added to (the) dictionary.

    References

    1. Guardian

    2. Oxford Dictionaries

    Introduction to Paleobiology

    This is one of the new specializations in Geoscience in which academics study the history of the Earth (or other planets 🙂 ) using fossil records. This is such a large field, it is further broken down into several other specializations such as Paleobotany (plants records), Paleobiochemistry (organic chem) and so on. This diversification has allow scientists from wide range of backgrounds to study the history of Earth. I am going to narrow this article down to Geologists perspective on paleobiology because I am a Geology student myself.

    Geologists should study Biology

    All scientists are like detectives. Some of us will try to create something for the future or solve problems at hand (For example, Petroleum Geologists) and some of us will try to understand the past in order to improve on how we solve problems. Paleobiology is the later in which we will use the historical records to study the Geological processes in the past and present. Geologists who have some form of education in Biology will most likely find this specialization intriguing. To me this is a good example why I think all three major sciences, Biology, Chemistry and Physics are useful in all flavors of science and engineering.

    What do we do?

    As mention above, we are interested in historical records preferably well-preserved in the rock and sedimentary record. Most of you heard about dinosaurs from popular media. That is paleobiology! You may argue that it is probably obvious when a Geologist come across a dino bone in the sedimentary record. The is far from the truth because we have to use deductive reasoning in order to arrive at that conclusion. If you talk to anyone who is in the “fossils hunting” field, they will tell you that numerous observations often result in may be one or two identifications of new fossils. Scientifically speaking those Jurassic Park movies are insults to the paleobiology.

    One of my professors told me that Geologists love diagrams. Well, he is right and for those who are just getting into this area, flow charts are your friends. Even well experienced Geologists and Paleobiologists use charts to narrow down their observations to a single group, family and ultimately a single type of fossil.

    A basic scheme for the identification of invertebrate fossils based on symmetry.
    A basic scheme for the identification of invertebrate fossils based on symmetry(1).

    Sometimes it is hard to identify fossils. You could even entirely miss them in the field. It takes a lot of experience and practice in order to find and classify fossils. What makes Geological Paleobiologists unique is that their ability to connect the dots between ancient life and the condition of Earth. The Earth has evolved millions of years and life forms have adopted to varying geological and environmental conditions.

    Trilobite?
    Trilobite?

    Typically a Geologist who is an expert of Paleobiology specialization not only record the information of fossils, but also the sediments, rocks and the formation of the location. We identify important events based on appearance or disappearance of certain fossils and geological materials. This information then analyzed together to hypothesize the history of Earth. The data collected used in various areas from academia, environmental science to oil and gas industry.

    So, kids… You may hate the class because there are so many items to be memorized. But it is not simply memorizing because one day you will use the knowledge in the field for great work. No matter what, the ability work with real physical samples comes with experience.

    References

    1. Geological Field Techniques; Coe, A; Argles, T; Rothery, D; Spicer R.; ISBN-978-1-4443-3061-8