Paleontology

Geological Timescale
Image from Steve Bowers

Paleontology is the science of extinct life; the study of forms of life that existed in former geologic periods, as revealed through analysis of fossils or other traces. It has several branches or subfields. The oldest is Terran Paleontology, the study of ancient life on Old Earth. Naturally, for Terragens this remains a major area of interest, and there are a number of interstellar institutes devoted to this, including the Jurassica Institute and the Darwin Institute for the History of Life on Earth. There is also the broader field of Exopaleontology, or Xenopaleontology, the study of ancient or extinct non-terragen life. Foremost here are the Eden Institute of Xenology and the Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology. Other subfields include cliopaleontology, the simulated resurrection of ancient or extinct life, and lazuropaleontology, the study of ancient or extinct life through actual resurrection of those life forms (see Lazurogenics).

 
Articles
  • Acheulian Technology - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    [1] Of, pertaining to, or typical of a Lower Paleolithic culture of the middle Pleistocene Epoch, characterized by large hand axes and cleavers made by the soft hammer technique.
    [2] Stone tools made by Homo erectus. Among a few eccentric extreme neo-prim baseline groups, as well as among collectors and neopaleolithic craftsmen, reconstructing these is of some interest.
  • Age  - Text by Mark Ryherd
    A historical or geological unit of time, shorter than eon, era or epoch.
  • Allosaurus (animal)  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Large (8 to 14 meters; weight 1.5 to 5 tonnes) Old Earth Jurassic carnivorous dinosaur.
  • Ammonite  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A type of formerly extinct marine Terragen cephalopod mollusk, distinguished by an elaborately coiled and chambered shell.
  • Anomalocaris  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Aquatic Cambrian animal of uncertain affinities, the earliest known terragen predator.
  • Archean Era - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The second major geological era in the history of Earth, following the Hadean and preceding the Proterozoic. Representing typical eogaian conditions, it was characterized by a reducing atmosphere, the presence of micro-organisms only, and extensive volcanic activity.
  • Archosaur - Text by M. Alan Kazlev, with additions by Stephen Inniss
    "Ruling Reptile". Important biological clade of terragen vertebrates that rose to prominence in the Mesozoic of Old Earth. It includes crocodilians, dinosaurs, birds, and a number of other extant, extinct or lazurogened types. A number of provolved species are of archosaurian derivation.
  • Arthropleura  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Huge but harmless uniramous terrestrial terragen arthropod of the Carboniferous period of Old Earth, it favoured moist swampy forests, where it fed on decaying vegetation and leaf litter, and attained a length of 2 meters. Their great size has made them a popular subject for lazurogenic projects.
  • Australopithecine  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Any of a number of extinct hominid species that lived in Africa between about 4 and 1 million years ago, and combined a fully erect posture and bipedal gait with a small and apelike brain case.
  • Background Extinctions - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Extinctions that occur continually throughout time. These extinctions are caused by small changes in climate or habitat, depleted resources, competition, and other changes that require adaptation and flexibility. Most extinctions (perhaps up to 95 per cent of all extinctions) occur as background extinctions.
  • Bennettitale - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Formerly extinct terragen gymnosperms that superficially resemble cycads, but reproduce more like flowering pants. They range in size from shrubs to small trees. Bennettitaleans lived throughout the Mesozoic Era. A popular plant for lazurogenic gardens. The fruits of many species are edible.
  • Brachiosaur  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A type of giant terragen sauropod dinosaur - originally Jurassic to Middle Cretaceous periods of Old Earth. Average length 18 to 30 meters, average weight 15 to 50 tonnes. Distinguished by their long forelimbs, giraffe-like neck and back, and high dome-like nostrils.
  • Burning Library Project, The  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    Information Age project to rescue as much information as possible regarding species that were being driven to extinction as a result of human activity.
  • Cambrian Explosion - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Period at the dawn of, or just preceding, the Cambrian period, when an unusual combination of environmental events (tectonic, atmospheric, ocean chemistry, climatic, ecological) triggered the sudden evolutionary radiation of terragen metazoa. These events are so unique and so distinctive that the term "Cambrian explosion" is used to refer to the sudden appearance of any higher ecologies and biota on a Gaian Type world previously only inhabited by microorganisms (or equivalent).
  • Cambrian Period  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev; some additions by Stephen Inniss
    Old Earth geological period, 542 to 488 million years ago; the first period of the Paleozoic era. It was followed by the Ordovician period. Well known for the "Cambrian Explosion", the relatively sudden appearance of larger and more complex organisms.
  • Carboniferous Period  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Old Earth geological period, 359 to 299 million years ago, the second last period of the Paleozoic era; it was preceded by the Devonian and followed by the Permian.
  • Cenozoic Era  - Text by Stephen Inniss, after the original by M. Alan Kazlev
    According to some authorities, the era in Old Earth's geologic history from 65 million years ago to the present; according to others, the period from 65 million years ago until the Great Expulsion. It was preceded by the Mesozoic, and followed according to some by the Gaiazoic. During this time Old Earth took on its "modern" aspect; it is sometimes called the "Age of Mammals".
  • Clade (evolution)  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    A phylogenetic group of organisms (whether biological, neumann-capablem-life, or alife) that shares a particular common ancestor, and therefore are related and share similar features. In the case of naturally evolved organisms it can be difficult to determine whether they are actually a clade or whether there has been convergence towards a common morphotype. The original term from studies of evolution has been adapted to other uses. For this see clade (sophontology).
  • Coevolution - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Two or more organisms experiencing evolution in response to one another. This may result in a biological arms race, or it could produce a symbiotic relationship.
  • Continent (geology)  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    On Old Earth, or on Gaian style worlds exhibiting similar patterns of plate tectonics, a large platform of metamorphic rock and largely granitic igneous rock, covered over much of its area by relatively thin layers of sedimentary rocks.
  • Convergent Evolution - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    When a trait develops independently in two or more evolutionary sequences or groups of organisms; e.g. the development of skin-flap wings in pterodactyls and bats. Mathematically, this refers to dynamic systems settling into an attractor.
  • Cretaceous Period  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev; some additions by Stephen Inniss
    The third period of the Mesozoic Era, from 145 to 65 million years ago; a continuation of the Jurassic heyday of the dinosaurs. It ended in a major extinction event that was also the close of the Mesozoic and the beginning of the Cenozoic.
  • Darwinian Evolution  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Peter Kisner
    Theory of biological evolution by natural selection based on the insights of Charles Darwin.
  • Devonian Period  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    In the paleontology of Old Earth, approximately 416 to 359 million years ago; the period of the Paleozoic Era between the end of the Silurian and the beginning of the Carboniferous. More generally and informally, any gardenworld or hab space that seems similar in the array of plant and animal species might be referred to as "Devonian".
  • Dinosaur  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Terragen formerly extinct Mesozoic archosaurian reptile. Most of the well-known species have been lazurogened with a greater or lesser faithfulness to paleontological authenticity; some of these have also been provolved. A large number of dinosaurs and other mesozoic species can be found on the surface of the terraformed and mesozoiformed planet Owen.
  • Eocene Epoch  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Stephen Inniss
    On Old Earth, the second epoch of the Tertiary period and Cenozoic era, lasting from 57-34 million years ago. It was preceded by the Paleocene, and followed by the Oligocene.
  • Eon - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Two or more geological Eras. The Eon is the largest division of geologic time, lasting many hundreds or even several thousands of millions of years, and is defined by particular planetological, geological or biological processes.
  • Epoch (Geology) - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Mark Ryherd
    A division of geological time, lasting several million years or less. Epochs are grouped into periods, and divided into ages.
  • Era - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    [1] Two or more geological periods. An era may be hundreds of millions of years in duration, and is defined by particular geological or biological processes.
    [2] An extended historical, or even galactic, period of time, that is characterized by particular historical, astronomical, or even cosmological events.
  • Evolution (biology)  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    In biology and systems theory, descent with modification. The process by which the gene pool of a population gradually changes in response to environmental pressures, natural selection, and genetic mutations.
  • Evolutionary Track - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The change in location of a star on the Hertzsprung - Russell (H-R) Diagram. As a star ages and evolves, you can trace out its history on the H-R diagram.
  • Evolutionary Tree - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Phylogenetic or cladistic diagram tracing ancestry-descent, branching, cross-links of genetic/informational and morphotypic exchange, and other factors in order to provide a complete and usually multi-parameter diagram of the evolutionary history of any taxon. A beautiful collection of evolutionary trees can be seen in the great Phylogeny Orbitals of Darwinia (NuiHibbert Sector, Zoeific Biopolity).
  • Exopaleontology - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Study of ancient (usually extinct) non-terragen biological life forms, whether sapient ("aliens") or non-sapient. The Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology is one of a number of important centers of exopaleontological study and relativistic fieldwork.
  • Fossil - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Mineralized impressions or cast of ancient Terragen or alien life-forms. In the case of many extinct organisms, fossils provide the only clues to their form and existence. On some un-policed frontier worlds and in unregulated free zones trade in fossils reaches epidemic proportions, although in developed systems the authorities almost always step in to conserve the originals.
  • Fossil Fuel - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Naturally-occurring, energy-rich carbon-based substance, such as shale, petroleum, coal, or natural gas, in a Gaian Type world's crust that was formed from ancient organic material. During the Industrial, Atomic, and early Information ages on Old Earth fossil fuels were burned in a criminally negligent manner, resulting in drastic climate change and ecological crisis that was only repaired during the late Interplanetary Age.
  • Gaiacene Epoch - Text by Stephen Inniss
    A term used to designate the new geological epoch and ice age on Old Earth from the nanoswarms and the Great Expulsion onwards. Preceded by the Holocene.
  • Gaiozoic Era - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Used to designate the geological period on Earth from the Great Expulsion onwards. Some prefer to imply a shorter time span, given the implications of the Fermi Paradox, and refer to this period as the Gaiacene Epoch.
  • Gondwana - Text by Stephen Inniss
    On Old Earth, a southern supercontinent prior to the formation of Pangea, and a similar supercontinent formed when Pangea broke to form Gondwana and Laurasia. Gondwana eventuallly broke up to form South America, Africa, Antarctica, and Australia, as well as two portions (India and Arabia) that eventually joined Asia. Distinctive common flora and fauna with ancestry dating back to the middle Jurassic when Gondwana was formed a second time were still identifiable when humanity arose on Old Earth. A number of replicas of Gondwana at various periods have been created by such organizations as the Jurassica Institute.
  • Great Dying  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Name given to the human-caused mass-extinction of a large proportion of baseline life and biodiversity on Old Earth; one of the six great extinction events on Earth (the others being the end Ordovician, Late Devonian, end Permian, end Triassic, and end Cretaceous). Only the end-Permian extinction is considered worse in estimated number of species and groups of organisms that died out.
  • Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology, The  - Text by Aaron Hamilton, M. Alan Kazlev, John M. Dollan
    One of the great scientific Houses of the Second Federation period, the Institute was founded on the new University planet of Delta Upali C/D II during the golden age of the 6th millennium, when relativistic exploration ships were increasingly encountering ancient and enigmatic ruins and relict tech of lost civilizations.
  • Holocene Epoch - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Stephen Inniss
    On Old Earth the Holocene ("entirely recent") is the most recent but one epoch in geologic time, lasting from about 12,000 BT (10,000 b.c.e.) to the Great Expulsion. This brief span of time from the birth of agriculture until the end of human baseline dominance on the species' home planet was the Golden Age according to most Anthropist sects. It was preceded by the Pleistocene and succeeded by the Gaiacene.
  • Homo erectus - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Early Pleistocene hominid that evolved in Africa about 1.6 million years ago and developed fire, clothing, language, and weapon use (see also acheulian technology). A direct ancestor leading to Homo sapiens. The species has been successfully lazurogened by hyperturing hobbyists a number of times.
  • Homo habilis  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Ancestor of Homo erectus, Homo habilis lived in Africa during the latest Pliocene and early Pleistocene approximately 2 to 1.6 million years ago. E differed from previous hominids in larger brain size, omnivorous diet, and creation and use of rudimentary tools.
  • Homo neanderthalensis - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Pleistocene hominid that evolved from Homo erectus about 100,000 years ago in Europe and the Middle East. A cousin rather than an ancestor to Homo sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis was short, stocky, and powerfully-built, and perfectly physiologically adapted to the harsh conditions of ice-age Europe, e survived with almost no change for some 70,000 years. E developed a culture that included elaborate funeral rituals, burying their dead with ornaments, caring for the sick, and making tools for domestic use and for protection. Homo neanderthalensis disappeared about 35,000 to 40,000 years ago, being unable to compete with Homo sapiens. A few of the Children of Gaia are said to be Neanderthal Rianths, and the genotype is popular among some clades in the Utopia Sphere and elsewhere.
  • Ice Age  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Any period of prolonged and widespread glaciation on a terrestrial world
  • Icthyosaur - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Terragen Mesozoic marine reptile, superficially resembling dolphins to a remarkable degree. Have been successfully lazurogened a number of times. The largest populations in terms of both species diversity and individuals are to be found on Owen.
  • Index Fossils - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Widely distributed commonly found fossils (originally terragen only, but now appliied to any exopaleontological study) that are limited in time span to a small stratigraphic range. They help in dating other fossils.
  • Jurassic Period  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Geological period of the Mesozoic Era, Earth, lasting from 199 to 146 million years ago. It was preceded by the Triassic and followed by the Cretaceous.
  • Jurassica Institute of Paleo Restoration (Negentropist)  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Breakaway section of the Jurassica Institute that joined the Negentropy Alliance.
  • Jurassica Institute of Paleoregeneration  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Although the Jurassica Institute was formerly established during the early Empires period, it's roots go back to First Federation attempts by groups like The Darwin League, Paleobios! and (a little later) Earth History Cooperation, to establish a living museum/zoo of every reconstructible species of organism that inhabited Old Earth, up until the Great Expulsion.
  • K-T Extinction - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Terragen mass extinction that occurred 65 million years ago, at the boundary of the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods. Caused by an asteroid or comet impact on the Yucatan Peninsula, resulting in prolonged darkness and rapid global temperature change. It resulted in the extinction of a number of important groups of animal life, including dinosaurs, plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, pterosaurs, ammonites, and several groups of plankton. Plants, small invertebrates, small reptiles and amphibians, small birds, and nocturnal mammals were not unduly affected, and large scavenging reptiles (crocodiles) also were able to survive. The K-T extinction event was a Level IV Mass Extinction.
  • Labyrinthodont  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Any of a diverse subclass of small to large extinct Terragen amphibia, Devonian to Cretaceous period (most common during the Carboniferous and early Permian).
  • Laurasia - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    On Old Earth, the northern supercontinent formed after Pangea broke up during the Jurassic period. During the Cretaceous period Laurasia had a quite different dinosaurian and mammal fauna to that of Gondwana in the south. Laurasia itself broke up to become North America, Europe, Asia, Greenland, and Iceland.
  • Lazurogenics  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    The art of resurrecting past species or clades, sometimes as individual specimens but more usually as entire viable populations.
  • Mass Extinction  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A process in which huge numbers of species on a garden world die out suddenly.
  • Mesozoic Era  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Geological era, Old Earth, lasting from about 251 million years ago to 65 million years ago, popularly known as the Age of Reptiles (more correctly, Age of Archosaurs).
  • Miocene Epoch  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Stephen Inniss
    On Old Earth, the fourth epoch of the Tertiary period and Cenozoic era, lasting from 23 to 5 million years ago. It was preceded by the Oligocene and followed by the Pliocene.
  • Neogene Period  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    In Old Earth paleontology and geology, the second period of the Cenozoic. It began 23 million years ago, and depending on which authority one consults it either continues today or ended at the beginning of the Quaternary or ended with the Great Expulsion in 621 AT. It includes the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, and may also be considered to include the Pleistocene, Holocene, and Gaiacene.
  • Oligocene Epoch  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    On Old Earth, the third epoch of the Tertiary period and Cenozoic era, lasting from 34 to 23 million years ago.
  • Ordovician Period  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev; some additions by Stephen Inniss
    Second period of the Paleozoic era on Old Earth, lasting from 488 to 444 million years ago. Preceded by the Cambrian and followed by the Silurian.
  • Palaeoxenology - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The study of ancient or extinct non-Terragen sentient life.
  • Paleocene Epoch  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    On Old Earth, the first epoch of the Cenozoic Era, lasting from 65 to 57 million years ago. It was preceded by the last epoch of the Cretaceous and followed by the Eocene.
  • Paleogene Period - Text by Stephen Inniss
    In Old Earth paleontology and geology, the first period of the Cenozoic, stretching from 65 to 23 million years before the present and containing the Paleocene, Eocene and Oligocene epochs. It was followed by the Neogene. The Muuh and the Soft Ones established interstellar civilizations during this period, and though there are ruins of Muuh origin on Titan there is no evidence they ever interacted with Earth life and the modern Muuh have no record of any connection with Solsys at all.
  • Paleozoic Era  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    One of the main geological eras of Earth, lasting from 542 to 251 million years ago. It includes the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian periods.
  • Pangea, Pangaea - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Former Earth supercontinent consisting of all of the land masses. It existed during the Permian and Triassic periods, and began breaking up during the Jurassic, forming Gondwanaland and Laurasia. The single landmass resulted in an arid climate, and the absence of geographical barriers meant a ubiquitous terrestrial fauna. But climatic factors resulted in two or three distinct phytogeographic provinces, the Dicrodium Flora in the south and a Laurasian Flora in the north. The term Pangea is also applied to any similar planetary supercontinent on a tectonically active Gaian world.
  • Period  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Mark Ryherd
    In geology, originally the basic unit of geological time in which a single type of rock system is formed. In history, a long span of time characterized by a particular set of political, cultural, military, or technological traits.
  • Permian Period  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The final period of the Paleozoic era. Lasting from 299 to 251 million years ago, this was also known as the beginning of the Age of Reptiles. Pangea took its final shape, the great coal forests disappeared, the climate became more arid, and reptiles suplanted amphibians, gymosperms took over from pteridophytes, and more modern forms of insects appeared. The period ended with the largest natural mass extinction on Earth since the evolution of higher life-forms, and was followed by the Mesozoic Era.
  • Pleistocene Epoch  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Stephen Inniss
    On Old Earth, the first epoch of the Quaternary Period, corresponding to the most recent Ice Age; 2.6 million years ago to 12,000 BT (10,000 b.c.e.) Life forms included the first anatomically modern humans, megafauna such as mammoths, mastodons, sabre toothed cats, giant ground sloths, woolly rhinos, diprotodonts, and other forms, as well as smaller animals. Invertebrates were basically the same as modern forms. A mass extinction of large mammals and many birds occurred at the end of the epoch, caused by a combination of climate change and human impact.
  • Pliocene Epoch  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Stephen Inniss
    On Old Earth, the fifth and last epoch of the Tertiary period, lasting from 5 to 1.8 million years ago. Life on land included mastodons, horses, camels, sabre-toothed cats, rhinoceroses, and many other forms. Hominids (australopithecines) appeared in Africa. Modern forms of whales lived in the oceans. Invertebrates were very similar to modern forms.
  • Proterozoic Eon - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Representing the "middle period" of the life-history of a Gaian Type world, with life mostly still at the microbial level. During this stage of planetary evolution, the atmosphere changes from reducing to oxygenated, the modern regime of continental drift begins, warm conditions replaced by "Snowball Earth", following that the short-lived Edicarian biota and the appearance of first metazoa (multicelluar animals). While the Earth was passing through it's Proterozoic stage, elsewhere in the galaxy, the Archivists, Mruta, Jacks, Halogenics, and very probably other significant xenosophont empires all arose and disappeared.
  • Quaternary Period - Text by Stephen Inniss
    On Old Earth the third period (or second according to some) of the Cenozoic Era on Old Earth beginning 2.8 million years ago. It follows the Neogene (or according to some divisions the Tertiary) period, and consists of the Pleistocene, Holocene, and Gaiacene epochs.
  • Radiometric Dating - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Radioisotopic dating; dating of rock or other material by measuring amounts of parent and daughter isotopes.
  • Sauropod  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Successful dinosaurian herbivore group native to the Mesozoic Era of Old Earth. Distinguished by a uniform trend to gigantism (up to 80 tonnes in several species - the maximum for terrestrial earth-normal gravity physiology), elephantine quadrupedal posture, huge necks and long tails, and tiny head.
  • Silurian Period  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    In the paleontology of Old Earth, approximately 444 to 416 million years ago; the geologic period of the Paleozoic Era between the end of the Ordovician and the beginning of the Devonian. More generally and informally, any gardenworld or hab space that seems similar in the array of plant and animal species might be referred to as 'Silurian'.
  • Tertiary Period  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Stephen Inniss
    According to some chronologies of Old Earth, the first period of the Cenozoic Era, sometimes called the age of mammals, lasting from 65 to 2.6 million years ago. It was preceded by the last epoch of the Cretaceous, and followed by the Quaternary period. This usage fell out of fashion in the Information Age and the epochs within the Quaternary were reassigned to the Paleogene and Neogene, but scholars in some times and places since have preferred the older usage.
  • Triassic Period  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The first period of the Mesozoic Era, Old Earth, lasting from 251 to 199 million years ago.
 
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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev with additions by Stephen Inniss

Initially published on 19 December 2001.