Brett, Carlton E. Department of Geological Sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York.
Gould, Stephen Jay Formerly, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Last reviewed:June 2019
Show previous versions
- Applications of paleontology
- Systematics and taxonomy
- Evolutionary paleontology
- Paleoecology and paleoenvironmental analyses
- Biological aspects
- Evolutionary process and life history
- Life properties
- Sketch of life history
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The study of life history as recorded by fossil remains. Paleontology investigates the life of the past through analyses of preserved fossils and their traces (Fig. 1). The term fossil, from the Latin “fossilis” (digging; dug up), originally referred to a variety of objects dug from the Earth, some of which were believed to be supernatural substances imbued with mystical powers. However, in a modern context, fossils can be defined as recognizable remains or traces of activity of prehistoric life. This broad definition takes in a diversity of ancient remains, but specifically excludes inorganic, mineralized structures, even those that spuriously resemble life forms (for example, dendritic patterns of manganese crystals: dendrites), sometimes termed pseudofossils (false fossils). See also: Fossil; Index fossil; Trace fossils
The content above is only an excerpt.
for your institution. Subscribe
To learn more about subscribing to AccessScience, or to request a no-risk trial of this award-winning scientific reference for your institution, fill in your information and a member of our Sales Team will contact you as soon as possible.
to your librarian. Recommend
Let your librarian know about the award-winning gateway to the most trustworthy and accurate scientific information.
AccessScience provides the most accurate and trustworthy scientific information available.
Recognized as an award-winning gateway to scientific knowledge, AccessScience is an amazing online resource that contains high-quality reference material written specifically for students. Contributors include more than 9000 highly qualified scientists and 43 Nobel Prize winners.
MORE THAN 8700 articles covering all major scientific disciplines and encompassing the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology and McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science & Technology
115,000-PLUS definitions from the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms
3000 biographies of notable scientific figures
MORE THAN 19,000 downloadable images and animations illustrating key topics
ENGAGING VIDEOS highlighting the life and work of award-winning scientists
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY and additional readings to guide students to deeper understanding and research
LINKS TO CITABLE LITERATURE help students expand their knowledge using primary sources of information