Recognize and understand the processes leading to the production of the fossil record and appreciate its importance as evidence for biological evolution. Encourage learning about the main groups of vertebrates and invertebrates commonly used in paleontology, also considering dissemination as possible goal.
Capacity to recognize the transition of organic remains from the biosphere to the lithosphere. Acquisition of expertise about the main groups of animals (vertebrates and invertebrates), whose fossil record contributes to the knowledge about biological evolution.
The course is organized into three parts: A) Taphonomy: from the biosphere to the lithosphere. Introduction to Palaeontolog and its applications. The species in Palaeontology: definition and problems. Biostratinomy: from the identification of the causes of death to the burial of a body through the physio-chemical and bio-chemical processes that may change its morphology and disposition in the sediment. Decomposition, disarticulation, transport, bioerosion, predation, dissolution, carbonatization.. Spatial relationships fossil/rock as indicators of autochthony vs. allocthony and of the depositional and burial environments. Fossilization s.s. (diagenesis): description of the physical and chemical processes that may change the composition and structure of the organic remains. Soft tissue diagenesis. Formation of minerals associated to soft parts. Preservation/alteration of biominerals. Types of fossils. Fossil-Lagerstätten. The Trace fossils: systematics and significance. B) Fossil Invertebrates. Description of the main features of the principal invertebrate fossil groups: cnidarians, brachiopods, bivalves, cephalopods, echinoderms, and trilobites based on theoretical lessons and practical training. Their significance in the Earth Sciences context. C) Fossil Vertebrates The first vertebrates: Agnatha. Fishes. Origin of placoderms, acanthodians, chondrichthyes, attinopterygii, sarcopterygii. Attinopterygii: radiation of teleosts in the Cenozoic. Fundamental plan of the tetrapod skeleton. Amphibians. Land colonization: structural problems. The 'primitive' amphibians, the origin of 'modern' amphibians, from amphibians to reptiles. Amniotes (Reptiles, Birds, Mammals): definition and relationships. General skeletal characters of the Reptiles, temporal windows and classification. Paleozoic anapsids. Primitive diapsids, lepidosauromorphs and lepidosaurs, archosuromorphs and arsouriurs. The origin of the birds. From synapsids to mammals, pelicosaurs, terapsids, cinodontes, paleobiological implications