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PALEONTOLOGY

Paleowhat? Paleontology is the scientific study of fossils, from their excavation to their complete laboratory examination.

Sounds weird, boring, useless, and stupid? Feel free to pass by. OR, if you find that serious, interesting, and think it is a excellent source of knowledge about the past of the Earth, then enjoy! By Dany Babin.


Skull of an Australopithecus afarensis, the oldest human ancestor known.

A T-Rex skull, one of the most popular dinosaur.
How I started to get interested?

Like probably a lot of young boys (because little girls don't seem to be interested), I started to be facinated in dinosaurs when I was about seven or eight years old. At this age, children think they are alone in their toughts, ideas, and feelings. So when I met someone else of my age also interested in that, I felt a strange feeling, like if a part of the world was falling all around me. And more, I realized that boy knew a little more than me about dinosaurs! I'm not sure but I think that event change my professional priorities.

From that moment, I realized that I was not so bad in drawing. I chose, much later during high school, to make my life as an architect. But, at my third semester during the college, I realized another fact: architecture was not made for me. I wanted more than that boring-and-always-the-same- profession. I then decided to listen to my old roots and definitively decided to become a paleontologist.

Through the years, I understood that I still had a "crush" on dinosaurians. But I also learned they are not alone; paleontology is a very wide domain: the first unicellular organisms, the first aquatic invertebrates, the development of the tetrapods, the dinosaurs (!), the evolution of man (from the Australopithecus to the homo genus), and much more. Besides, paleontology also involves notions from archaeology, history, biology, geology, geography: it is a multiprofession with an open window on the world. Definitely, it is a lot more suitable for me than sitting on a chair during all day and destroying my back, or in front of a computer taking my eyes out of my head.

In what consists the job of the paleontologist?

Most of paleontologists first begin to walk on a field that seems to be proper to the process of fossilization and then look around for fossils partly or totally out of the ground. This may appear quite simple, but it is often the best way to proceed. Sometimes, they have to make big excavations to get out of the ground a fossil hardly stuck. Or, when the fossil is very fragile and small, it is not surprising to see paleontologists use a toothbrush to remove earth and dust.

Once the fossils are found, they have to be shipped to the laboratory. Transporting them is a task that requires a lot of caution; a rocky road is not recommended!

In the laboratory, the biggest and the longest job begins: the fossils have to be cleaned, waxed with a special product, and studied attentively. Those studies would enable scientifics to recreate the past environnement, the way the organism probably lived, and its physionomical aspects.

Bones are not useless, and even a simple one can reveal a lot of relevant information, even more than the ones already mentionned, about the past, the present, and sometimes the future. So, the next time you heard something about paleontology, don't forget its importance!


Paleontologists can be very lucky. Like on this picture, they sometimes found fossils already out of the ground.

A group of paleontologists have found a dinosaur nest.

For further and more complete information on paleontology, here is some very interesting links:

The Talk.Origins Archive: Fossil Hominids
An excellent site to learn A LOT about human ancestors and their evolution.
The Dinosaur Pages
A little bit interested in dinosaurs? This COMPLETE site is excellent for you.
Fossil Collections of the World
To know more about the history of paleontology, the best known sites around the world for fossils, and the geological time scale.

Any suggestions, comments, or critiques? You can e-mail me at: djbab@rocketmail.com


This short introduction to paleontology has been read and visited by me and more curious people, students or teachers.