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".
In other worlds, Paleontology
is a science about extinct animals based on fossil record.
The main goal
of Paleontology is reconstruction of life's evolution on Earth, and to
understand its origin and development.
be of different types: bones, eggs,
tooths, tissue or even
entire bodies preserved in permafrost or amber of extinct
animals, shells, petrified wood or fossilized
remains of some plants, animal's footprints or traces preserved in
Some fossils, such as Ammonite and Trilobite are known as index fossils.
An "Index fossil,
any animal or plant preserved in the rock record of the Earth that is
characteristic of a particular span of geologic time or environment. A
useful index fossil must be distinctive or easily recognizable,
abundant, and have a wide geographic distribution and a short range
through time. Index fossils are the basis for defining boundaries in
the geologic time scale and for the correlation of strata. " [R3]
Scientists who study this fossils called Paleontologists or Palaeontologists.
They dig for
fossils in the field, bringing them to universities, labs or
where they dissect, study and assemble it.
fossils are found on all continents, even in Antarctic. Some fossils
are occasion found at construction excavation or by geologists
who are looking for oils or minerals, others are discovered during
expeditions organized by Natural
History Museums or universities, as for
example the Polish-Mongolian Paleonthological Expeditions in the Goby desert
between 1963-1971, shown on
stamps of Poland from 1980.
Many dinosaur's eggs and bones were unearthed
there. Some of the finding can be seen on Polish
Main subdivisions of Paleontology science are:
- to study fossils of animals which have a backbone: fish, dinosaurs, mammals etc.
- to study fossils of animals which do not have the backbone: molluscs and
anthropods for example.
to study fossils of microscopic animals of all kind.
- this study traces and footprints of prehistoric animals
- to study fossils of prehistoric plants of all kind, include algae and
the study of pollen and sporea of prehistoric plants
- the study of historical geography, generally physical
landscapes, such as continental drift for example.
Paleoecology - to study
the interaction between different prehistoric animals and plants. Food
chain of prehistoric animals for example.
- to study the history of Earth climate
Combined knowledge of all the subdivisions above, allows us to make some
reconstruction of prehistoric animals and plants in their environments,
as represented on many stamps
from around the world.