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What is Paleontology?

Paleontology (from the Greek paleo,"ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of ancient life -- from ferns, to fish, to ferrets, to formations -- and of the fossilised evidence they have left behind.

People who study paleontology are known as paleontologists, and from the highest mountains to the deep blue sea nowhere is safe from these fossil crusaders who, more often than not, are as colorful as the critters they study. But there's more to paleontology than just digging up bones.

Paleontologists also study fossilized tracks and burrows, trees and shells, coprolites (fossilized poop), and rock layers, their age, and the age of the remnants they preserve. The real research begins after the initial discovery and a sound knowledge of current life forms - to compare ancient flora and forna to, is always a bonus. As is a Hercule Poirot-like knack for sniffing out clues that will help them recreate what life on earth (and the earth itself) was like in the ancient past, how organisms' evolved, and how they interacted with each other and their environments.

You may think paleontologists and archaeologists are the same, but they are very different. The former specialize in the study of fossils, while the latter focus on human artifacts and remains.

Click here to view Dinochecker's Good Paleontologist Guide.
Recommended reading
• Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra and Orangel A. Aguilera (2010) "Urumaco and Venezuelan Paleontology: The Fossil Record of the Northern Neotropics (Life of the Past)". /uk .
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "DinoChecker FAQ entry :: What is Paleontology?"
http://www.dinochecker.com/dinosaurfaqs/what-is-paleontology›. Web access: 15th Dec 2017.
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