Palaeontology (48 hours, 6 cfu).
Aim of Palaeontology. Relationships with Earth and Life Sciences.
Elements of Biology. The organisms. Chemical elements. Organic compounds: proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, nucleid acids. The cell: chromosomes and reproduction. The production of energy: photosynthesis, aerobic and anaerobic respirations, fermentations. The subdivision of living organisms: the three and the five kingdoms models. Main features of Monera, Protista, Fungia, Plantae and Animalia.
Fossils and taphonomy. Biostratinomic processes: decay, disarticulation, transport, pre-diagenetical dissolution, burial. Fossildiagenetic processes: bioimmuration, filling by sediment and cements, dissolution, permineralization, carbonification, replacement and istometabasis, neomorphism. Classification of fossils on the basis of taphonomic history: imprint, natural and artifical cast, internal mold, replaced test. Classification of fossils on the basis of transport: authochtonous, allochthonous, reworked and infiltrated fossils.
The classification of fossils. Systematic and taxonomy. Evolutionary taxonomy. Taxonomical hierarchy. Biological and palaeontological species. Practical problems in the definition of species: examples of biometrical methods. How to group species into higher taxonomic units: analogies and homologies. The nomenclature of taxonomic units.
Elements of Systematic palaeontology. Features and usefulness of the major groups: Foraminifera (Fusulinaceae, Alveolinidae, Nummulitidae), Porifera, Cnidaria (Rugosa, Tabulata and Scleractinia), Brachiopoda, Bivalvia, Gasteropoda, Cephalopoda, Trilobita.
The applications of Palaeontology.
1) Elements of Palaeoecology. Classification of marine environments. Life style of organisms: mode of life and trophism of marine organisms . Ecological factors: abiotic and biotic factors. Some examples of abiotic factors: light, umidity, hydrodynamic energy, temperature, salinity, O2, nutrients, torbidity, substrate, idrostatic pressure. Palaeoautoecology: taxonomic uniformitarism and morphofunctional analysis. Elements of palaeosinecology.
2) Elements of Biostratigraphy. Stratigraphic sections. Biostratigraphc classification of stratigraphic sections. Kind of Biozones: Taxon-range zone, Concurrent- range zone, Interval zone, Assemblage zone, Acme zone. Direct and indirect biostratigraphic correlations. Synthetic range charts: construction and applications. Biostratigraphic dating of sedimentary rocks.
3) Elements of Palaeobiogeography. Ecologic and geographic factors of the distribution of organisms. Examples of relationships between paleobiogeography and plate tectonics.
Laboratory of Palaeontology (32 hours, 3 cfu)
The Laboratory session is totally based on practical exercise with fossils. The student will learn how to recognise the most important taphonomical processes, to recognise the major fossil groups and to describe them. The groups that are treated in the session are: Fusulinaceae, Alveolinidae, and Nummulitidae; Porifera; Cnidaria: Rugosa, Tabulata and Scleractiona; Brachiopods; Bivalves, Gastropods, Cephalopods; Trilobites. The Laboratory includes a one day field excursion on a fossil bearing locality where the students will experience search, detection and taphonomic description of fossils.