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From paleontology to paleobiology: A half-century of progress in understanding life history

By
Patricia H. Kelley
Patricia H. Kelley
Department of Geography and Geology, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403-5944, USA
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David E. Fastovsky
David E. Fastovsky
Department of Geosciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island 02881, USA
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Mark A. Wilson
Mark A. Wilson
Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio 44691, USA
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Richard A. Laws
Richard A. Laws
Department of Geography and Geology, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403-5944, USA
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Anne Raymond
Anne Raymond
Department of Geology and Geophysics, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-3115, USA
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Published:
September 01, 2013

Paleontology has undergone a renaissance in the past 50 years, expanding from an empirical field focused on stratigraphic context to the theoretically grounded discipline of paleobiology. This transformation has been propelled by conceptual advances in two broadly construed areas, evolution and paleoecology. Phylogenetic systematics has revised our understanding of the evolutionary relationships among organisms. New understanding of tempo and mode in evolution, evolutionary hierarchies, the role of mass extinctions and recoveries, and developmental evolution has led to unexpected insights on evolutionary processes. Within paleoecology, taphonomy has led to greater understanding of the nature of the fossil record. Evolutionary paleoecologists have unearthed temporal and spatial patterns, at various scales, in diversity and community organization and have investigated the processes responsible for them. Other advances in paleoecology involve trace fossils; paleobiogeography; novel uses of fossils in understanding the environment; and the new discipline of conservation paleobiology. New concepts have been furthered by incorporating tools from other disciplines, including quantitative analytical methods, biostratigraphic innovations, geochemical and molecular tools, and advanced microscopy techniques. Fueling these advances are fossil discoveries revealing previously unknown Archean-Proterozoic worlds, detailed accounts of the explosion of life in the Cambrian, and floras and faunas yielding surprising and unexpected insights into the origins and evolution of important plant and animal groups.

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GSA Special Papers

The Web of Geological Sciences: Advances, Impacts, and Interactions

Marion E. Bickford
Marion E. Bickford
Department of Earth Sciences, 204 Heroy Geology Laboratory, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244-1070, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
500
ISBN print:
9780813725000
Publication date:
September 01, 2013

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