35109 - Palaeontology

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students should be able to establish relationships between tempo and mode of the biological evolution. They should also acquire basic elements for a chronology of the biological and geological events. Students should also: i) properly use the geological time scale in the frame of a evolutionary perspective; ii) evaluate potential and limits of the fossil record for reconstructing past events and environments.

Course contents

Fossils: their nature and origin. Relationships between the record of the biological evolution and sedimentary processes: sedimentation rates, time averaging and the use of fossils in the reconstruction of tempo and mode of the biological evolution. Species and speciation models; name-bearing types. Darwinian gradualism and punctuated equilibria: two faces of the same medal. The fossil record of the early life. Ediacara. The Cambrian "revolution" and the Burgess Shale-type fauna. Mass extinctions: causes and consequences. Icnofossils. Fossils in the construction of the geological time scale and correlations: biozones and their relationships with other tools for dating the geological past. Fossil markers: graptolites, arthropods, cefalopods, microfossils. Fossil bioconstructions.


PDF of the lectures will be available during the course.

Suggested books for further readings:

Manuale di Paleontologia, a cura della Società Paleontologia Italiana, Ed. Idelson-Gnocchi, 2020

M.J. Benton, D.A.T. Harper, Introduction to Paleobiology and the Fossil Record, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012

Teaching methods

Traditional lectures, seminars, lectures/exsercises in the museum and in the field

Assessment methods

Oral examination.

Teaching tools

Traditional lessons, lessons from the field.

Office hours

See the website of Roberto Barbieri