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).

  • 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 of its time.
  • 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.
  • Bennettitale  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Formerly extinct terragen gymnosperms that superficially resemble cycads, but reproduce more like flowering pants.
  • 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.
  • Clade (evolution)  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    A phylogenetic group of organisms (whether biological, neumann-capable m-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.
  • Darwinian Evolution  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Peter Kisner
    Theory of biological evolution by natural selection based on the insights of Charles Darwin.
  • 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.
  • Early Evolutionary History of Orwell, The  - Text by TSSL
    The early history of naturally evolved Life on Orwell.
  • 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.
  • 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 Integration, 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.
  • Ice Age  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Any period of prolonged and widespread glaciation on a terrestrial world.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Natural History of Earth  - Text by ProxCenBound, M. Alan Kazlev, and Stephen Inniss
    The geological and biological history of Earth, the origin planet of Terragen life.
  • Orwell, Geological Periods  - Text by TSSL
    Geological Periods on Orwell over the last 8 billion years.
  • Palaeoxenology - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The study of ancient or extinct non-Terragen sentient life.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev with additions by Stephen Inniss

Initially published on 19 December 2001.

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