Abstract

For students and staff alike, palaeontology is probably the least popular subject taught in university geology departments. The bewildering babel of binomens and the frustrating flood of facts produce an antipathy that is both understandable and, in a sense, unavoidable. What is more, this all belongs in the unfashionable realms of observational science, which is not science at all. The inevitable temptation for the lecturer, therefore, is to play to the audience, to pick out the titillating titbits, the exciting ideas, however shallow their roots may be in the subsoil of scientific fact.

It is largely for this reason that palaeoecology has become very popular in the last decade. It brings the fossils to life; coupled with its aura of scientific method it encourages field studies, it seems to be all the more interesting and easier than the slow and patient study of morphology and systematics. Ay, there's the rub, for along that primrose path lies the trend towards the everlasting bonfire of super-ficial, airy-fairy hypotheses and over-generalization. As one who has done his best to encourage the study of palaeoecology, I cannot help but feel somewhat guilty about this trend. But to defend myself, let me quote a passage from the introduction to my book on palaeoecology (1963, p. 5):

“I maintain strongly that every young palaeontologist should have fundamental training in the careful examination and description of fossils. This is essential not only for altruistically taking one's share of the vast task still before us but also because

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