Palaeontology has gone from strength to strength in recent years. The astonishing – and astonishingly well-preserved – caches of fossils that have come to light are providing remarkable new insights into the course of evolution, while reconstruction of the Earth's past climate – a crucial context and prerequisite to understanding present climate – is underpinned and constrained by fossil evidence. This kind of work, however, depends utterly on maintaining and improving the systematic knowledge of ‘normal’ fossil assemblages: and this kind of work, being time-consuming and unlikely to attract headlines (or large grants), is increasingly hard to do in these...

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