Sierra College Department of Biological Sciences

Discover the Biological Sciences

The introductory information for this site has been contributed as a joint assignment by students in Bio. Sci. 10.

Evolution - Paleontology

By: Jenny Williams


1) Biological field or sub-topic chosen:

The biological field that I have chosen to research is Paleontology.

2) Define field or sub-topic:

Paleontology is most commonly described as the study of dinosaurs or the study of fossils. Although this is a component of this field, there are many more areas involved. Paleontology uses the other sciences, such as physics, chemistry, biology, and geology to study fossils that tell us about, “ecologies of the past, about evolution, and about our place as humans in the world.” (Berkeley)

3) Describe in more detail the breath and depth of what could be studied or learned within this topic:

Within Paleontology, there are many subdisciplines. These include:
- Micropaleontology: study of microscopic fossils
- Paleobotany: study of fossil plants; includes the study of fossil algae and fungi in addition to land plants
- Palynology: study of pollen and spores, both living and fossil, produced by land plants and protests
- Invertebrate Paleontology: study of invertebrate animal fossils
- Vertebrate Paleontology: study of vertebrate fossils
- Human Paleontology: study of prehistoric human and proto-human fossils
- Taphonomy: study of the processes of decay, preservation, and the formation of fossils in general
- Ichnology: study of fossil tracks, trails, and footprints
- Paleoecology: study of the ecology and climate of the past, as revealed both by fossils and by other methods

4) Focusing on one major concept, principle, or group of organisms (as appropriate within the topic), describe its importance, relationships, functional aspects, or otherwise explain it in more depth as seems important to you and (potentially) the others in class:

What people know of fossils is usually found within movies such as Jurassic Park. However, fossils do much more than just show the bones of dinosaurs. “Fossils are among the most valuable sources of information about the Earth’s history.” ( These pieces of history tell the world about the organisms that were around thousands and thousands of years ago and give us a snapshot into how they lived. By studying various types of fossils, we can, “…learn not only about the creatures and plants of the distant past, but how they grew, what they ate, how they interacted, and many aspects of their behavior.” (gsa.state) Fossils also help give an understanding about how life evolved from earth and about diseases ancient and modern. The climate in the past, for example ice ages and warmer periods can be learned about from fossils as well.

5) In studying and discovering more about this topic, what was the most interesting aspect, fact or some other piece of information that you have learned.

One thing that I found very interesting from when studying about fossils was that fossils are one of the most useful aids to finding oil. Apparently, the oil tends to accumulate in the pores of particular rock layers. Therefore, some studies of microscopic fossils brought up in chips of rock during drilling of wells have led to major oil and gas discoveries. Who knew?

6) References – provide references used and at least two Web sites with additional information on this topic (or sub-topic) for anyone that would like to learn more:


Two additional sites for more info:


(return to the "Discover the Biological Sciences" main index page)

W3C Logo: Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional W3C Logo: Valid CSS