Palaeontology and vertebrate palaeontology, museological aspects

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course is designed to show the scientific, museologic and economic value of the most important fossil groups. The aims of the course are achieved by describing the frequency of fossils in the field, the difficulties on their search and extraction from the rock, and the technical approach to their preparation in laboratory. The course includes also three special sections: on vertebrates and invertebrates, and a last one in which some solutions of Museographical paleontology realized in the Milano Natural History Museum will be illustrated.
Expected learning outcomes
Ability to distinguish vertebrate and invertebrate fossils. Ability to understand the significance and importance of fossils. Ability to organize a laboratory for paleontologic preparation. Understanding of the organization and structure of a Museum.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Course syllabus
Fossils in the history, science and society. The beginning of fossil collections by humans, and the steps to the understanding of their biological nature. The contribution of Paleontology to the reconstruction of the evolution of life on Earth. The scientific, didactics and outreach importance of fossils. True fossils, fake fossils and frauds based on fossils.
Fossils from the rock: fossiliferous beds, fossiliferous successions and fossil localities. Richness and lateral continuation of fossiliferous beds. Examples of fossiliferous successions from the Mesozoic of Lombardy.
Paleontologic excavations. Identification of the site with respect to the purpose of the paleontologic study. Definition of the stratigraphic interval to sample, of its lithology, bedding of cover. Planning of the field works in term of technical tools, staff and duration of the excavation.
The preparation of fossils. Fossils from sediments and from hard rocks. Most common techniques for extracting fossils with respect to their chemical and mineralogical composition. Tools for mechanical and for chemical preparation.
The classification of fossils. The species concept: living species, extinct and extant species. The modern approach to the classification of fossils in comparison to the approach used in the past centuries. The types of the species. Application of the principles of the ICZN for the solution of the most common problems in the classification of fossils.
The importance of fossils in the modern society: scientific frauds based on fossils. The Beringer, Deprat and Gufta affairs. Fake fossils in amber and fake vetrebrates.
Vertebrate-bearing formations and localities in Lombardy. Middle and Late Triassic localities. Jurassic localities.
The UNESCO WHL Monte San Giorgio. Paleontologic heritage, the record of fossil vertebrates, history of the site, its organization and the Museum network.
History and organization of some of the most significant italian Natural History Museums, with important paleontologic collections.
Prerequisites for admission
No specific prerequisites are required, only a general knowledge on the basic concepts of Paleontology, which are normally given in the basic courses on Paleontology during the first three years ("laurea triennale").
Teaching methods
The course consists of 48 hours of lectures. The lectures are given with the support of Powerpoint presentations.
Teaching Resources
Printouts of the Powerpoint files used during the lessons.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam is written.
The assessment is based on the achieved understanding of the multi sided aspects of the study of fossils, in the history of geology, and in the present time. The student should have to ne able to understand the paleontologic, historic and cultural importance of fossil localities and fossils specimens. The student would be able to plan the development of a fossil locality.
GEO/01 - PALEONTOLOGY AND PALEOECOLOGY - University credits: 6
Lessons: 48 hours