Palaeontology

the science dealing with the life of past geological periods

Our everyday life would be unthinkable without the legacies of former living beings, our cars drive with the organic remains of former seaweed and bacteria (the crude oil), the steel of our cars is obtained from microbially precipitated iron ore deposits that are 2.5 billion years old, the abrasive in our toothpaste is fossil diatoms and the phosphate fertilizer on our fields comes from phosphate minerals that were biologically precipitated in primeval times, such as the skeletal parts of vertebrates.

We, as humans, are also a product of the evolution of life, palaeontological research enables us to trace our ancestors, theoretically back to the appearance of the first fossil (bacterial) cell.

What actually is palaeontology?

The biosphere is a unique feature of our planet in the solar system. Life has existed on earth for at least 3.5 billion years. Evolutionary processes, starting from bacteria-like organisms, led to the development of the most diverse building plans, up to the present human being. The science of palaeontology uses fossils to investigate which living beings lived on earth at what time, how they were related to each other, how they developed and spread.

Classical palaeontology is currently undergoing a significant expansion in geobiology. It deals with both modern and fossil organisms and the processes in the Earth System that are driven by them.

The exploration of life on earth has always exerted a special attraction on people. Historically, palaeontology has been thought-forming and thus has shaped society. Finds of fossils keep curious people and researchers all over the world busy. The resulting knowledge is constantly growing and the exchange of information is therefore essential. The Palaeontological Society combines these interests and the knowledge of the palaeontological sciences in German-speaking Europe.

The present is the key to the past

Understanding global changes in the environment and climate is a major challenge for mankind, and palaeontology makes a decisive contribution to mastering this challenge. By reconstructing and understanding geological processes in the change of palaeoecosystems, it provides essential ideas for scenarios of how our environment might develop in the future within the framework of ecosystem research. Palaeontological knowledge, for example about the palaeobiological effects of increasing sea acidification, can thus help to mitigate or prevent undesirable changes.

In order to understand the phylogeny, ecology and biology of today's organisms, including humans, one needs to know their evolutionary development. Palaeontology has the important task of linking fossil finds with the dynamics of their palaeoenvironment and the palaeo-climates of the Earth's history. These findings serve the other geosciences for the reconstruction of climatic-material cycle events of the Earth's past.

The feedbacks between the bio- and geosphere in the Earth's past are still far from being understood. This concerns, for example, CO2 storage through the colonisation of the mainland by plants and its influence on weathering or deposit formation as well as the biomineralisation of the soil, in this case of phosphates (fertilisers).

The future development of the biosphere in System Earth cannot yet be adequately predicted. This results in new challenges for biologically oriented palaeontology, with its sub-areas of geo(micro)biology, geoecology and biodiversity research.

Kontakt

Paläontologische Gesellschaft
Geschäftsstelle
Weismüllerstr. 45
60314 Frankfurt am Main
Tel.: 069 / 400 3019 71
Fax: 069 / 400 3019 74
Email: geschaeftsstelle(at)palges.de
Internet: www.palges.de

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