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Second Semester 
Teaching style
Lingua Insegnamento

Informazioni aggiuntive

Course Curriculum CFU Length(h)
[60/78]  GEOLOGY [78/00 - Ord. 2020]  PERCORSO COMUNE 9 88


The course of palaeontology should provide knowledge of the main themes in palaeobiology (palaeobiodiversity, taphonomy, evolutionary theories, paleoecology, biostratigraphy, and so on), focusing on the fields of greatest interest to geologists. The main objective is to develop in students the capacity for critical observation (on theoretical aspects and especially on the findings and on the field), to relocate the information provided by the fossil remains of organisms in terms of time, life and environment of fossilization. At the end of the course the student must have acquired the essential knowledge concerning the life history and evolutionary theories, the palaeoenvironmental contexts, the processes of fossilization and the use of fossils for biostratigrafic purposes. In particular, the student must recognize the diagnostic characters of a sufficient number of fossil organisms and contextualize them both from the taxonomic-biostratigraphic and palaeoecological point of view. In addition, the student should be able to describe and explain situations related to the presence of fossils in both laboratory findings and on the field, must be able to extract the information and be able to communicate both orally and in written form. During the course students will be sensitized to issues of geo-palaeontological heritage protection and the role of paleontological disciplines in the
jobs taken by geologists.




Taphonomy - fossilization and biostratinomy: nature of the substances that make up the organisms, death, predation. Necrolysis, decomposition, disarticulation, bioerosion, dissolution and transport. Burial in mineral deposits; burial in organic deposits and into fluids; incrustation bioimmuration. Biogeopetal structures. Fossilization of organic matter and mineralized parts; deformation of fossils; the "Fossil-Lagerstätten".
Evolutionary theories and palaeobiological events -adaptation and biodiversity, natural selection,; genotype and phenotype. Microevolution. The origin of species: phyletic gradualism, speciation sensu strictu, allopatric, sympatric and parapatric speciation. The synthetic theory. Macroevolution: the origin of new bauplan. Morphology and environment: adaptive convergence, parallel evolution, iterative development, Cope's Law, specialization and extinction, ontogeny and phylogeny. Eterochronic development. Adaptive radiation and biological crises: the taxonomic diversity and major biological events through geological time, rate of evolution, extinctions, adaptive radiations.
Paleoecology - Methods and aims of paleoecology. Current marine environments: vertical zonation of the pelagic domain and benthic domain; zoning after the Endoume school; hydrodynamic zonation of the beach. Organism modes of life: mobility and trophism. Factors that control the distribution of organisms: the substrate, currents and turbulence, temperature, salinity, oxygen content, food resources, depth. Taxonomic uniformism. Functional morphology. Populations and paleoenvironments: K-selection and r-selection. Synecology: mutualism and commensalism, parasitism, and paleopathology. Community thanatocoenosis, tafocenosis and orictocenosis. In situ, mixed and transported associations: analysis on the field. Sampling techniques and preparation of materials. Paleoenvironmental reconstructions and community structure. Biogenic deposits, and environments of reef building organisms.
Palaeoichnology - fossilization and classification of trace fossils: ethological groups, the bioturbation. Palaeobiological and palaeoenvironmental implications, stratigraphic, sedimentological and palaeobiogeografical meaning.
Biostratigraphy - Concepts of lithostratigraphy. The biostratigraphic units: the biozone, association, distribution, range and acme zone. Biostratigraphic correlations. Concept of “guide fossil”, FAD and LAD. Outline of ecostratigraphy and ecobiostratigraphy. Chronostratigraphy, geochronology and geocronologic scale. The standard chronostratigraphic units (GSSP): stratigraphic procedures, and stratotypes, 'golden spike'.
Palaeobiogeography - Model of dispersal and vicariance, ecological biogeography. Migration and dispersion: method and timing of spread of organisms. Corridors, bridges and filtering barriers, casual way. Paleobiogeografic reconstructions; insular faunas. Discussion of some examples.
Taxonomy - Definitions of systematics, taxonomy, classification, hierarchy of taxonomic categories, typological definition of taxa, nomenclature, synonymy and homonymy; parataxonomy; The species concept in palaeontology; intraspecific variation, taxonomy and phylogeny, homology and analogy; monophyletic and polyphyletic groups. Taxonomic schools.
Systematic Palaeontology
Recognition and morphological analysis, evolutionary trends, palaeoecological meaning and biostratigraphic significance of some representatives of the major phyla being achieved and relationships with general topics covered in class.

Teaching Methods

Lectures are held with the aid of “Powerpoint” presentations with practical laboratory and two educational field trips.

Verification of learning

The exams consist of oral and practical examination, with attribution of a note.


Società Paleontologica Italiana 2020: Manuale di Paleontologia - Fondamenti e Applicazioni. Idelson-Gnocchi.
S. Raffi - E. Serpagli, 1993 (95, seconda edizione): Introduzione alla Paleontologia. UTET, Scienze della Terra.
A. Allasinaz, 1999: Paleontologia degli invertebrati. UTET, Scienze della Terra.

Letture complementari:
M.J. Benton, 2000: Paleontologia dei Vertebrati. Franco Lucisano (ed.).
D.E.G. Briggs, P.R. Crowther (eds), 1990: Palaeobiology a synthesis. Blackwell Scientific Publications.
R.S Boardman, A.H. Cheetham & A.J. Rowell (eds.), 1987: Fossil Invertebrates. Blackwell Scientific Publications.
E.N.K. Clarkson, 1993: Invertebrate Palaeontology and Evolution. Chapman & Hall (terza edizione).

More Information

The teaching materials available to students include: CD / memory stick containing all presentations of lectures and PPT documents, including general and specific topics covered (articles, geologic maps, diagrams, etc.). The course material is delivered at the end of each lecture series (copies are prepared by students). The teaching collection including fossils, rocks and the remains of present day organisms, is available to students during the practical lessons.

Questionnaire and social

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