Monday, August 15, 2016

What's the Point of Paleontology, Anyway?

At times it may seem that everything about Earth's past has been discovered, and that the role of a paleontologist may be or become outmoded. Some may wonder if paleontology is just a fancy name for fossil digging. Well, yes and no. While a bulk of their work involves fossils, their contributions are just as important as ever, as new discoveries by paleontologists are made day after day. 

First, what is paleontology?
Paleontology is a branch of science concerned with fossil animals and plants, including fungi and microbes. While many think paleontology is just the study of fossils, it is much, much more. This important field has multiple sub-disciplines which, according to UCMP (University of California Museum of Paleontology), include: micropaleontology, paleobotany, palynology, invertebrate paleontology, vertebrate paleontology, human paleontology, taphonomy, ichnology, and paleoecology. Each division has its own specific focus while contributing to paleontology as a whole. 
What does paleontology contribute to the modern world? 
Photo credit: Natursports /
In essence, paleontology is the study of the history of life. Paleontologists are able to find details of Earth prior to man's existence (and after) which provides background context to past and present biological and ecological events. They are trained to determine the cause and effect of certain events and can understand Earth's changes on an extremely large scale. 
Paleontology utilizes knowledge from a variety of other scientific fields including anthropology, archaeology, geology, ecology, and more. These other fields help paleontologists learn the most about the fossils they are discovering and researching, essentially helping tell the most vibrant, accurate story of past ecologies. 
Want to meet a paleontologist?
Meet the Museum of World Treasures' Curator and Staff Paleontologist, Steven King, at Coffee with the Curator this Thursday at 9:00 a.m. View the Facebook event page to learn more. 
Read last week's blog to learn more about paleontology and Steven's recent findings pertaining to Ivan, the Museum's T-rex.

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