What is Paleontology?
The Study of Fossils
Paleontology : Definition
Have you ever wondered how we know so much about the animals like dinosaurs that existed millions of years ago?
Who discovered them for us?
Who chalked out the basic history of the evolution of humans on the Earth? We have a special branch of science known as paleontology that deals with the study of past life.
The word paleontology is derived from three Greek words: ‘palaeos’ meaning ‘old’, ‘ont‘ meaning ‘being’ and ‘logos’ meaning ‘knowledge’. In other words, paleontology is the study of ancient life. Scientists who study paleontology are called paleontologists.
Some paleontologists study fossil plants, some study fossil mammals, some study fossil aquatic animals, while the others study dinosaurs.
What do Paleontologists do?
Paleontology is fun but requires hard work. If you are not too fond of going out and working in the sun, it is not your cup of tea! Paleontologists spend most of their time outdoors, hunting for fossils. They use drills, chisels, as well as unconventional tools like toothpicks and toothbrushes to excavate fossils. They have to take adequate precautions and recover the fossils from the ground without damaging them. Then they carry the fossils to their laboratories where they clean them and carefully examine them to know more about the identity and origin of the fossils and, through them, the history of the Earth.
Is it boring? Tools and Techniques of Paleontology
Not at all! Paleontology is a combination of multiple fields of science including geology, mathematics, and engineering. It also involves the use of highly advanced technological gadgets such as remote sensing satellites, C-T scanners, and super computers. Believe us, the paleontological laboratories are highly sophisticated labs like the ones shown in the movies and it is really fun to ‘operate’ some of these machines and recreate the mystical extinct animals through computer graphics and animations.
How is Paleontology useful for us?
The science of paleontology aims at discovering more information about the living organisms that lived before us as well as various climatic conditions and their impact on life forms. Knowing how climate changes affect life can give us an insight into the potential changes in future ecosystems with respect to the climate. If it were not for the efforts of paleontologists, we would have known nothing about our past as we do today. We would have still kept guessing who were the first animals to walk the Earth, why did the dinosaurs become extinct, how did humans evolve and much more.
Do you have it in you to become a Paleontologist?
If you have ever dreamt of discovering hidden treasures, if are genuinely curious to find out how life evolved on the Earth, and if you have a lot of patience and willingness to work hard—good news! You are an ideal candidate for becoming a paleontologist!
Lazy lads and lasses, please excuse! Once you become a paleontologist, you may see a real fossilized skeleton of T. Rex up close and personal, instead of watching dummy ones in the sci-fi movies on the screen and, who knows, one day you might discover something bigger and better than dinosaurs from the lap of the Earth!
Interesting Facts about Paleontology
- Georges Cuvier (1769–1832), a French biologist, is regarded as the father of paleontology. According to a legend, he could draw the complete animal just by looking at a single discovered bone.
- Famous Indian paleontologist, Ashok Sahni, put India on the fossil map of the world by discovering one of the earliest known dinosaurs—Rajasaurus narmadensis—from the banks of river Narmada and the country’s earliest known bird fossil—the Vastanavis.
- According to the scientists, 99 percent of all organisms that once lived on the Earth are now extinct, and less than just 1 percent of those organisms were fossilized.
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