PALEONTOLOGY

Degree course: 
Corso di First cycle degree in ENVIRONMENTAL AND NATURAL SCIENCES
Academyc year when starting the degree: 
2018/2019
Year: 
3
Academyc year when helding the course: 
2020/2021
Course type: 
Compulsory subjects, characteristic of the class
Credits: 
9
Period: 
First Semester
Standard lectures hours: 
72
Detail of lecture’s hours: 
Lesson (72 hours)
Requirements: 

The teaching does not require any prerequisite, but it is useful is a basal knowldege of Zoology and Geology.

Final Examination: 
Orale

Evaluation will be performed with a final test (oral exam) . Exams are scheduled according to the number planned by the Degree Course.
The exam will consist of three questions with the following aims:
1 identification and description of a fossil of an invertebrate
2 Explanation of one of the arguments covered in the section on General Paleontology

3 Description of the structural plan of a Vertebrate group or the trend of anatomical modification linked to the development of new adaptiation or features in Vertebrates.

All questions aim to ascertain the knowledge of the contents covered in the lessons and the understanding of the dynamics involved in the inherent processes .
Evaluation is by a final grade. Evaluation is based on the adequacy of the answers to the questions, on the correct use of cientific terminology during the exposition of the topics. A further postive element in evaluation will be the ability to find the links between selective pressures and appearance of new bauplans. Final grade will be in 30th.

Assessment: 
Voto Finale

AIMS.
The teaching aims to provide the student exhaustive knowledge for the study, identification and analysis of fossils, and for their use to the scope of framing the geologic time, of the reconstruction of ancient environments , and of the evolutionary history of organisms, with particular emphasis on Vertebrates. This knowledge, besided the intrinsic scientifci and cultural significance, represent a key to interpret and explain the origin of biodiversity of extant life, thus fitting in the general frame of the Degree Course.

Learning outcomes
At the end of the course the student will be able to:
1) Define what is a fossil
2) Recognize what processes lead to the formation of a fossil.
3) Describe the characters of the fossils of the main group of invertebrates with reference also to their significance for paleoecology or geochronology
4) Highlight their fundamental role in documenting the evolution of bioiversity, in the interpretation of paleobiogeographic or paleoecologic events that characterized Earth history, with particular reference to Vertebrate history.
5) Describe the roel of fossils in dating sedimentary rocks.
6) Understand relatioships between selective pressusres and developmente of new bauplans in life history.
7) Interpret the evolutionary history with reference to environamental variations and appearance of new adaptations..

1) Paleontology definition and aims. What is a fossil. Kinds of fossils.
Fossilization: Biostratinomy: processes that occur after the death of an organism helping or hindering the conservation of remains until burying. Environments that favour conservation of remains. Burying and diagenesis. Burying in sediments and in fluids. Conditons that lead to distruction or instead allow the preservation of remains during diagenesis of the sediments. Fossilization of mineralized and of organic components of an organism. Conditions that favour soft parts preservation. Role of bacterial mats. Discovery extraction and use of fossils.
Concept of Tanatocoenosis, differences with Biocoenosis. Kinds of Tanatocoenoses: autochtonous, allochtonous mixed, how to identify them. Importnce of autochtonous tanatoocenoses for paleoecological research. Reworked Fossils.
Study of fossils, description and identification. Taxonomy: binomial nomenclature, taxonomic categories Species in paleontology, differences with biologic species and related problems. How to erect a paleotological species. Problems of homonimy and of sinonymy.
Evolution Role of fossils as evidence of evolution. Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection. Modern synthesis. Evolutionary trends: convergent and parallel evolution, hypertelia and insular dwarfism.
Paleoecology, Definition and differences with ecology all’ecologia. Fossili utili alle indagini paleoecologiche. Paleoecological data from fossils.
Paleobiogeography, definition and differences with biogeography. Examples of paleobiogeographic data. Relationships between phylogeny and paleobiogeography..
Biostratigraphy. Rule of strata superimposition. Unidirectional evolution. Concept of correlation. Correlation methods. Absolute and relative dating. Fossils as biostratigraphic indexes. Biomarkers, examples. Cronostratigraphy e geochronology. Concept of zone. Different kinds of zones. Main chronostratigraphic and geochrnologic units. Eons, eras and periods of Earth history.

2) Systematic Paleontology: Invertebrates
Animal kingdom. To be able to assess the Class/Subclass describing the morphology know the time range the palaeontological significance and life habits of fossils belonging to the following zoological groups: Phylum Mollusca: Class Bivalvia, Class Gastropoda, Class Cephalopoda, Subclass Nautiloidea Ammonoidea and Belemnoidea. Phylum Arthropoda, Class Trilobita. Phylum Brachiopoda, Class Articulata and Inarticulata.

3) Systematic Paleontology: Vertebrates

Vertebrate origin. Deuterostomes, Tunicates, Cephalocordates and Craniates
Pisces Agnatha and the origin of Gnatostomes, Jaw development, paleobiological implications, :Placoderms, Selachii, Acanthode,, Hints on the Atinopterygian radiation..
From water to earth: Sarcopterygii and Anphibia , Tetrapodskeleton Batracomorpha and reptiliomorpha, toward modern amphibians
Reptilian faunas during the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic. Diapsid radiation : Lepidosauromorpha and Lepidosauria, Arcosauromorpha and Arcosauria,.
Diversity and biology of Dinosaurs, Birds origin;
Pterosaur diversity. Radiation of Mesozoic marine reptiles ,
Synapsids and the origin of mammals. The mass extinction at K/T limit
Cenozoic: first mammal faunas . Diversity of lower Tertiary mammals. Brief history of modern mammals. Origin of man

Slides, videos , etc. willbe available on e learning
Recommended, but not mandatory, the following books, Benton. M. J. & D.A. T. Harper, Introduction to Paleobiology and the Fossil Record, Wyley-Blackwell 2009. Serpagli Raffi, Introduzione alla Paleontologia, UTET 2003,

Front lessons and observation of fossil specimens in class.
Front lessons will be carried out with the help of slides, videos and direct observation of fossilspecimesn provided by the teacher, allowing the student to verify the knowledge of what covered during lessons
The teacher encourages interaction with students bymoments of discussion and briefings especially during the direct observation of specimens, to enhance the analytical skills and allow a constant self-evaluation of the understanding of arguments. The approach of the teaching with discussions in class and showing of specimens remders strongly recommended the continuous attendance to the lessons.

The teacher will receive students for explanation or clarifications of arguments , by appointment via e mail (silvio.renesto@uninsubria.it)