Paleontology

Paleontology is the study of prehistoric life and an organism's interaction with other organisms and the environment. It is a science that attempts to explain causes, rather than to conduct experiments to observe effects, and is often based on fossil evidence. Questions here have to do with anything that pertains to paleontology.

9,439 Questions
Paleontology
Dinosaurs
Asteroids

What caused the extinction of the dinosaurs?

Scientists have many theories about what caused the extinction of dinosaurs. Below are thoughts on some of the most common theories:

  • Since about 90% of dinosaurs were herbivores (plant eaters), it was thought that when an asteroid hit earth and many tons of dust was thrown into the atmosphere that the result was a "long night" due to the lack of sunlight that was able to reach earth, the plants died out and without a food source, so did the dinosaurs.
  • It could also have been the combination of the Chicxulub asteroid impact event (causing worldwide fires and environmental catastrophe in association with the Deccan Traps volcanic event, which occurred at around the same time, or possibly as a result of, the asteroid impact event.
  • There are many theories that are written throughout history of why the dinosaurs exactly were driven into extinction. Most are meteor impact related. By looking at craters all over the world, scientists can estimate the meteors size, speed and its impacts effect on the local environment. See the related link for more information.
  • Though the large meteorite impact (Chicxulub) figures prominently in a lot of the theories of how the dinosaurs became extinct, the idea of a gamma ray burst has also come up now that we are aware of them and the threat they pose. Additionally, there was an "outburst" of volcanic activity during this period. This extinction event is at the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary.
  • It should also be added that several other large impact events occurred right about the time of Chicxulub, including Silverpit and Boltysh craters, among others. It seems the deck was "stacked against" the dinosaurs, regardless of how you look at it. It is possible that things are "found" to "corroborate" extinction by space rock, but the facts are pretty convincing, even for the skeptic.
  • It was noted but is worth repeating: many of the ideas that represent credible ways that could have triggered the dinosaurs' extinction could have arisen separately and acted in concert to kill off all these creatures. One thing is certain - they're gone. And the demise of the terrible lizards was caused by something dramatic given the relatively narrow window in which they disappeared.
  • The hypothesis that states an asteroid-impact was the sole cause of the extinction is just that - an hypothesis, not a fact. Most paleontologists feel that the asteroid impact was just one of a series of catastrophic events that ultimately wiped out the dinosaurs. There is evidence of a huge meteor strike just off the Yucatan Peninsula, true. And a meteor may well have put a final period to the extinction pulse. But there is also evidence that other factors may have been involved. For one thing, the dinosaurs didn't become extinct all at once. The pulse seems to have taken more than 10-thousand years to complete which makes the asteroid theory implausible as a complete explanation. There is evidence that there was massive volcanic activity also, and a drastic climatic change. The dinosaurs were in decline in number of species long before the K/T extinction was over. Furthermore, some dinosaurs did survive into Laramide time - the birds are still around (admittedly that's begging the issue, but it's not unreasonable to ask how they managed to survive when so many their brethren were killed).
  • Dinosaurs were already fast becoming endangered species before the Chicxulub impact. Increased volcanic activity such as the Deccan Traps in modern day India was slowly killing many species. Between 68 to 60 million years ago 150,000 km2 of igneous rock was deposited in places more than 2 km thick. The bulk of the eruptions occurred about 66 million years ago near modern day Mumbai. These eruptions lasted as little as 33,000 years but the effect on the environment would have been staggering. Dust and debris thrown into the atmosphere along with sulphur dioxide would have cooled the earth. Also many poisonous gases would also have been released. Studies on modern day birds suggest that these poisonous gases not only directly killed dinosaurs but also caused thinning of the shells of their eggs which meant that many would fail to hatch.
  • It has also been suggested that disease killed off the dinosaurs. A very deadly and contagious disease may have circulated among the dinosaurs forcing them to become extinct. Still yet another theory is that the Earth just gradually changed in climate over a long time period and the dinosaurs were not able to adapt to the cooler, dryer climate.
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Dinosaurs
Paleontology

Do we know what dinosaurs sounded like?

In a word, no, but scientists can make educated guesses. The closest living relatives of the dinosaurs are crocodilians and birds, and we can look to the ways they vocalize to give us a hint.

Alligators and crocodiles use their larynxes to communicate—they’ll hiss, groan, and yes, roar (here’s a compilation of their sounds). Dinosaurs might have had larynxes, but since those don’t fossilize, it’s impossible to know for sure. Birds, meanwhile, use an organ called a syrinx, which seems to have evolved after dinosaurs. That might indicate that dinos couldn’t vocalize at all, which would be a bummer.

However, there’s also a possibility that they evolved a unique way to vocalize. For example, based on studying their skulls and inner ears, some have theorized that hadrosaurs used their crests to bellow at each other.

So, they probably didn’t roar, but bellowing can be pretty cool too, right?

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Geology
Paleontology
Fossils

How do you determine the age of a sedimentary rock or a fossil contained within it?

This an area of common misconception. Most sedimentary rock, and the fossils contained therein cannot be dated directly with radiometric techniques, but can be dated indirectly. Here's the facts:

  • Because most sedimentary rock is composed of particles of pre-existing rock of various types, each particle can be a different age.
  • Carbon-14 or carbon dating techniques can only be used to date organic material which is of a maximum age of 70,000 years; this leaves out the vast majority of fossils found in rock, and only covering roughly .000016 percent of geologic time.
  • The dating of fossils was originally done by their placement in a geologic column of rock strata. Because of the Law of Superposition, the deeper the stratum, the older it is (in an undisturbed body of rock or sediment). Fossils which were evident in a particular stratum, but missing from other strata were noted as "index" fossils. The presence of these fossils indicated the age of the stratum relative to other layers. The layers of stratum were placed in a geologic column, subdivided, and assigned names based on the presence of different types of fossil organisms. The use of fossils in this manner is known as biostratigraphy and is the basis of "relative dating" of rock layers and fossils, a dating technique that was in effect until the advent of radiometric techniques in the twentieth century.
  • Radiometric dating of rock involves the measurement of the amount of decay in radioactive elements which are present in the rock. Radioactive elements decay at unique rates, depending on the isotope. This rate of decay is known as half-lives, it is the time necessary for ½ of the atoms to decay in a particular element. The decay follows a geometric scale, in that in the first half-life of an element, ½ of the atoms decay, yet in the second half-life, ½ of those remaining decay and so forth. By measuring this decay, and knowing the half life of an element, scientists can date a sample. Radiometric dating is particularly useful in dating igneous and metamorphic rock.
  • Because of geologic events such as plate tectonics and volcanism, suitable material for radiometric dating, such as volcanic tuff, solidified lava, and igneous intrusions have been found as layers on, in, and cut through layers of sedimentary rock. Intrusions are always younger than the rock body they penetrate, meaning that the sedimentary rock in which intrusions are found will be older than a radiometrically dated sample of the intrusion. Lava flows and volcanic ash which form layers in rock will be younger than the rock below and older than the rock above. The solidified intrusions and lava flows can be dated with radiometric techniques.
  • The radiometric dating of suitable rocks (i.e. igneous or metamorphic) in proximity to their sedimentary counterparts, therefore allows the sedimentary rock to be dated as well.
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Paleontology
Fossils

How do fossils form in 5 ways?

Freezing,

Amber,

Tar seeps,

Casts and molds

Petrification

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Earth Sciences
Paleontology

Remains of solid waste materials of animals?

coprolites

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Geology
Paleontology

What caused the preCambrian era to end?

Nothing at all. Paeleontologists chose a time where significant numbers of hard-shelled animal fossils first appeared in rocks.

It was initially believed that these were evidence of the first life on earth. As such it was decided by stratigraphers that this was a sensible point in time to create a boundary between the pre-cambrian and the newly named eon (which we are still in) - the phanerozoic, which literally means "new life".

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Geology
Paleontology
Fossils

Would horseshoe crabs be useful as an index fossil?

No,

Index fossils are used to date certain rock layers where the fossil is found. So it's usefull when you can find a certain index fossil only in a small period of time. So you can get the most precise dating for the rock layer.

Horseshoe crabs are known as a 'living fossil', the first fossils of horse shoe crabs are found 450 millions years ago.

So when you find a fossil of a horse shoe crab in a rock or sediment, you can't say anything about the age of the rock.

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Trees
Paleontology
Evolution

How many years have trees existed?

About 360 million years. (After the Cambrian period 550 million years ago, or "Cambrian explosion", as it is known, when most animal life began on this planet, plant life began to appear. The first plants, in the ocean, appeared 460 million years ago, and the first trees about 100 million years after that.)

Answer 2 :

Trees must not be confused with plant ! Word trees is reserved for tree ferns , gymnosperms and angiosperms , which appeared in late Paleozoic Era nearly 400 million years ago .

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Geology
Paleontology
Fossils

How are fossils formed?

There are multiple methods of fossilization, but fossils generally are formed by rapid burial of organisms or traces of organisms by sediments.

Fossils occur when the organic material is filled with minerals or the cells of an organism is replaced by the minerals in water. Most of the minerals came from rocks and sands.

Here are the conditions for fossilization or permineralization:

1. Mineral-rich water like flood water or ground-erupted water.

2. Lack of oxygen - to prevent decomposition by oxygen.

3. Pressure - particularly in woods so that minerals can seep deep inside.

4. Usually occur within a few years - fossilization must occur quickly before decomposition takes place.

When a Plant or animal dies in a watery environment and is buried in sediment or soft tissues quickly decomposed leaving the hard bone or shells behind.

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Chemistry
Paleontology
Science Experiments
Soil

Materials for which gets warmer sand or dirt?

Well to find out what gets warmer sand or dirt you would probably need 2 plastic cups, 2 thermometers, sand, dirt and then you would have to take it outside probably in the sun or some warm area wate for about three hours and check to see what is warmer.

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Paleontology
Tanzania
Fossils

Where is the tanzanian fossil site?

olduvai gorge

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Fossils
Geology
Paleontology

How reliable is fossil evidence?


The answer depends on how the word 'reliable' is interpreted in the question:


(1) Is the fossil evidence 'reliable' in interpreting the history of life on Earth?


Fossil evidence IS our understanding of the history of life. Fossils on which this understanding is based include skeletons, roots, leaves, bark, chemical signatures, imprints, carbon residues, burrowing and trail marks, petrified wood, footprints, eggs, gastric stones, fecal matter, and many others, found preserved mainly in stone, but sometimes in ice. There are many ways that fossils can be formed. They include freezing, carbonization, petrification, mineral replacement, unaltered preservation,

recrystallization, andauthigenicpreservation.


The fossil record of life recorded in rock is full of periods of intense diversification, appearances of new lifeforms, and extinction events that affected large percentages of the biota on a worldwide scale.


(2) Are the modern methods used to determine the age of the fossil 'reliable'?Radiometric dating of rock involves the measurement of the amount of decay in radioactive elements which are present in the rock. Radioactive elements decay at unique rates, depending on the isotope. This rate of decay is known as half-lives; it is the time necessary for ½ of the atoms to decay in a particular element. The decay follows a geometric scale, in that in the first half-life of an element, ½ of the atoms decay, yet in the second half-life, ½ of those remaining decay and so forth. By measuring this decay, and knowing the half life of an element, scientists can date a sample. Radiometric dating is particularly useful in dating igneous and metamorphic rock, but not so much for sedimentary rocks and fossils.


Because of geologic events such as plate tectonics and volcanism, suitable material for radiometric dating, such as volcanic tuff, solidified lava, and igneous intrusions have been found as layers on, in, and cut through layers of sedimentary rock and fossils. Intrusions are always younger than the rock body they penetrate, meaning that the sedimentary rock in which intrusions are found will be older than a radiometrically dated sample of the intrusion. Lava flows and volcanic ash which form layers in rock will be younger than the rock below and older than the rock above. The solidified intrusions and lava flows can be dated with radiometric techniques.


The radiometric dating of suitable rocks (i.e. igneous or metamorphic) in proximity to their sedimentary counterparts, therefore allows the sedimentary rock to be dated as well. Radiometric dating techniques are constantly being refined and improved with a resulting increase in accuracy and date range.


Scientific inquiry and the scientific method have contributed greatly to our lives in the fields of electronics, physics, engineering, chemistry, manufacturing, and medicine. This same scientific method is being used in genetics and Earth sciences to broaden our knowledge and understanding of Earth's history, including the origin and evolution of life.

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Paleontology
Information Science and Libraries

What did Alfred Wegener fail to do?

Wegener failed to specify a possible method by which continents could move around.

Most people would not accept his theory because they thought the continents would be ploughing through solid rock.

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Paleontology
Fossils

Are mold and cast examples of trace fossil?

Yes, they are.

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Paleontology

What is the difference between an eon and an era?

An eon is bigger and usually contains many eras within it.

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Geology
Paleontology
Rocks and Minerals

What are the properties of extrusive rock?

They are fine grained.

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Geology
Paleontology
Plate Tectonics
Planet Earth

How old is the Earth according to science?

The Earth as an accreted celestial body of roughly the same size as exists today, was formed roughly 4.567 billion years ago as concluded by current (2013) scientific evidence.
Geologic Age of the Earth

Based on current scientific knowledge, the elements that form the Earth have been dated to between 4.53 to 4.58 billion years old. Not only have the oldest rocks on Earth been dated radiometrically, but so have very old, very rare meteorites and rocks brought back from the Moon. All have dated to approximately 4.5 billion years old, a fact that speaks volumes because the Moon has not undergone the tectonic and seismic changes that the Earth has.

The progressive mineral and biological strata of the Earth tell a story of a long and complex history that created the world currently occupied by man. In this chain, humankind is a relatively new and unprecedented form of life.

(see the related links)

The Biblical and Creationist Views ("Earth born old" hypothesis)

Using the records given in the Bible, scholars have estimated that the world is roughly 6,000 years old. Other religions provide varying ages based on their faiths' accounts of the Creation of heaven, Earth, and man. This is not the estimate that most of the scientific community accepts, because it requires that many of the biological and geological conditions on the Earth were created with the appearance of being much older. As documented records do not exist from the very oldest civilizations on Earth, no objective analysis of these beliefs can be made.

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Geology
Paleontology
Fossils

In what type of rock do most fossils appear?

Rarely a fossil may appear in metamorphic or igneous rock, but the vast majority of fossil evidence presents itself in sedimentary rock. Remains or evidences of life are often preserved by being covered in sediments before decaying or being consumed by predators. The sediments may turn to rock through the process of lithification over time, leaving a record of their presence.

Limestone - by far

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Jewelry
Paleontology
RuneScape
Gold and Precious Metals

Where does gold come from?

Gold is a naturally occurring element (element symbol Au, atomic number 79), that is created in nature e.g. during supernovae explosions of type II (see link "supernovae nucleosynthesis").

It also has been created in amounts of a several atoms by nuclear transmutation (see respective link), but it cannot be "created" or "destroyed" in the classical sense of chemistry.

On earth, gold is found mostly in solid form in veins in siliceous rocks. By alteration, it can be eroded and placed in form of powder, granules or nuggets in the riverbeds. Low concentrations of dissolved gold can also be found in the sea.Occurrence in nature

Gold occurs in nature in both its native state and in compounds. The native state of an element is its free state. It is not combined with any other element. The most common compounds of gold are the tellurides. A telluride is a compound of the element tellurium and one or more other elements.

At one time, gold was found in chunks or nuggets large enough to see. People mined gold by picking it out of streams and rivers. In fact, gold was once very common in some parts of the world. People valued it not because it was rare, but because it was so beautiful.

The abundance of gold in the Earth's crust is estimated to be about 0.005 parts per million. That makes it one of the ten rarest elements in the Earth's crust. Gold is thought to be much more common in the oceans. Some people believe as much as 70 million tons of gold are dissolved in seawater. They also think there may be another 10 billion tons on the bottom of the oceans. So far, however, no one has found a way to mine this gold.

About a quarter of the world's gold comes from South Africa. Other leading producers of the metal are the United States, Australia, Canada, China, and Russia. In the United States, about two-thirds of its gold is mined in Nevada. California, Montana, Alaska, and South Dakota also produce gold.

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Science
Paleontology
Statistics
Cell Biology (cytology)

What is a hypothesis and what are some examples?

Increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide might cause global warming.

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Astronomy
Physics
Paleontology

What does a comet look like from earth?

It looks like a star or possibly an asteroid. Obviously it is not a star or asteroid though.

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Paleontology
Fossils

Where are most the fossil preserved?

In amber

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Paleontology
Fossils

Why ar trilobites considered index fossils?

Because they changed slowly over time :D

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Geology
Paleontology
Industries and Professions

What is the definition of paleontologist?

A paleontologist studies the history of life on Earth, mainly through the examination and study of fossils, which are evidences of ancient life that are most often found in sedimentary rock.

Paleontologists can do a number of things depending on their interests. They may strictly do lab work--cleaning, identifying, sorting bones and fossils; chemically analyzing material, reassembling fossil structures, preparing exhibits. They can also do field work involving the search and discovery of ancient life. They also prepare scientific papers and come up with new scientific theories based on new or previously published information. Finally, some paleontologists can make a living with a career in teaching.

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Geology
Paleontology
Dinosaurs

Was there grass in the Triassic period?

There is currently no evidence of grass in the Triassic Period.

Until recently it was thought that grass evolved around 55 million years ago but recent findings suggesting that grass became common 66-65 million years ago comes from the very end of the Cretaceous Period. Some dinosaur coprolites show material that appears to have been grass.

It is now believed that Grass's evolved sometime in the late Cretaceous and became widespread just prior to the K-T Extinction Event.

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