Paleontology is a sub-science of geology that studies micro, macro, and vertebrate organisms that lived on the earth from the earliest creatures to the present day, starting from the formation of the Earth, and studies their development and relationship with each other.
The word Paleos in Greek meaning ancient, onto meaning being, and logos derived from the meaning science finally paleontology in all together meaning; The Science of ancient beings.
The term paleontology was first coined by Ducrotay de Blainville in 1825 and first introduced into the geological literature by Fischer von Waldheim in 1834.
The living sphere (biosphere) on which we live has been home to the world of living things for billions of years. The sedimentary rocks, these remnants of organisms (fossils) formed evidence of Earth’s history in sedimentary stacks formed during geological cycles from the oldest layers, although some animal and plant groups became extinct as a result of meteor showers, volcanic activities, and movements of continents, lived in the land, lakes, and seas and the biosphere renewed itself and formed some new living groups.
What do paleontologists do?
Paleontology studies ancient living remains (fossils) in a systematic sequence towards more advanced complex organisms within the evolutionary line, starting with primitive or simple ones. The main subject of paleontology is primarily the identification, classification of invertebrate and vertebrate organisms over billions of years, as well as the identification of family trees, the determination of evolutionary changes and transformation events. Investigations within the subject of Paleontology are carried out, within the scope of the main branch of Systematic Paleontology (Taxonomy).
Animal and plant communities identified by this branch of paleontology, as well as their Earth-scale distribution and age, help determine the distribution of land and sea areas during geological cycles, climatic conditions, depositional environments, and the levels of oil, coal, and sedimentary mineral deposits that develop due to them.
Branches of Paleontology
Because paleontology investigates organisms from past times, it is also closely associated with biology, a branch of science that studies living beings. Biology is also called Neontology, Zoology (Animal Science) and Botany (Plant Science) are the main branches of this science.
When this segmentation is adapted to the past, it is divided into paleontology, Paleozoology, and paleobotany (Phytopaleontology). Paleozoology is also grouped into two subsections, Invertebrate Palaeontology and Vertebrate Palaeontology. Another branch of Paleontology that studies the single-celled animal kingdom and other important fossil microorganisms classified as Protista (Protozoa) is micropaleontology (Micropalaeontology).
Based on Systematic Paleontology, it is possible to associate paleontology with paleozoology, geochronology, and Paleoortams subdivisions.
Functional morphology (functions of skeletons or structures in fossil organisms and their comparison with other similar ones), fossil organisms and growth (changes that fossil organisms undergo in the growth line until they become mature) and Evolution (comparative anatomy, embryology, genetic and community issues are evaluated in geological periods and various environmental parameters are examined, revealing the changes and transformations that organisms that lived in past times have undergone to the present day).
The Department of Geochronology deals with the determination of geological time by using fossils containing series of layers sorted from the oldest layers of the Earth’s crust to the top in the order of geological history and the creation of a geological timescale based on time zones of the order of millions of years. With this feature, Geochronology is one of the main disciplines of Stratigraphy, which is one of the important branches of general geology.
It is related to biostratigraphy (Biostratigraphy) and Chronostratigraphy (Chronostratigraphy, Geochronometry), one of the main parts of stratigraphy, in terms of the communities and environments in which fossils form and live, as well as their age. Biostratigraphy identifies rock communities according to their fossil scope, divides fossils into units to characterize rock communities formed at a certain time according to their first appearance and final appearance, and deals with their correlations.
Chronostratigraphy; is related to the classification of rock units in geological time, with sections of geological time taking the names of the Chronostratigraphic units to which they correspond. Because the chronostratigraphy unit is a collection of rocks formed over a certain period of geological time, there is a close interest between the Geochronology units and the Chronostratigraphy units. The boundaries of biostratigraphic units may overlap and intersect with the boundaries of Chronostratigraphic units (DOYLE, BENNETT, and BAXTER, 1995).
Another important discipline with which paleontology Systematics is associated is Paleoortams (Palaeoenvironments).
Paleoecology (Palaeoecology) and Palaeobiogeography (Palaeobiogeography) sub-branches of studies are important when called paleoortams. Paleoecology explores the environments in which organisms lived in geological periods and their relationship with each other. Paleobiogeography, on the other hand, is the geographical areas in which fossil organisms spread during the period in which they lived (land, sea, lake, etc.) reviews for detection.
Paleontological Research, in a sense, sheds light on Biological Studies and the study of the past in the stratigraphic sequence in which records of the earth are kept. Achieving paleontological results requires systematic stratigraphic and sedimentological knowledge. The main component in the identification of rock depositional environments is the identification of living environments of fossil organisms. Changes and transformations (evolution) from the formation of the earth to the present day, which cover this 4.5 billion-year process, starting from the first living thing to the most advanced organisms, are among the study topics of historical geology, one of the important sub-disciplines of geology. In this regard, there is a close relationship between Paleontology and Historical Geology.
Geological Time Chart
It is possible to reserve periods by examining the broad scale of change of life on earth in the earth’s 3.5 billion-year history. The geological timeline is a reference guide for evolutionary biologists and geologists and is the product of 150 years of work.
The Chronostratigraphic units (Time-Rock stratigraphic units) contained in the time ruler are a basic reference work used for aging rocks and the establishment of a stratigraphic roof. In this line, precise aging made by using the property of radioactivity with the help of radioactive elements and the segmentation of time on a million-year scale is observed. Global time reservations and events that can be explained from geological records can be determined as close to their limits. This segmentation, mass extinctions, evolutionary radiation, and Cambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic are records that draw the boundaries of the main periods. The boundary of each unit can be observed in the Earth’s crust in its form called stratotypes at the original localities.
Chronostratigraphic records allow (comparison) the local and regional correlation of rocks with the state of characteristic zones (biozones) determined as a result of studying stratotypes of fossils that constitute evidence of relative evolutionary changes (Table 1.1)