Paleontolgy and Laboratory

A.Y. 2019/2020
9
Max ECTS
84
Overall hours
SSD
GEO/01
Language
Italian
Learning objectives
The course is organized into two units and illustrates the basic concepts of Palaeontlogy that are usefull to geologists.
The first unit is theorethical and includes the presentation of Taphonomy, Systematic Palaeontology with the most important groups of marine invertebrates, Palaeoecology, Biostratigraphy and Chronostratigraphy. Every systematic group is shortly presented in term of stratigraphic distribution, anatomy, structure and morphology of the skeleton, systematic subdivision of the group, mode of life and application in Palaeontology.
The Laboratory unit is dedicated to the description and identification at Phylum/Class level of specimens from a collection consisting of several hundreds of specimens.
Expected learning outcomes
The student will learn how to recognize and describe macrofossil specimens collected in the field. He will be able to understand the taphonomy of these specimens and to compare it with the diagenetic features of the sediment/rock hosting the specimens.
The student will be able do identify and select the fossils useful for palaeoecological analyses and for biostratigraphic applications.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Responsible
Lesson period
year
Course syllabus
First part: Paleontology (48 hours)
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.


Second part: Laboratory (32 hours)
The Laboratory session is based on practical exercises 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.
Prerequisites for admission
No prerequisites are required
Teaching methods
The course consists of two parts. The first is theoretical and consists of 48 hours of lectures. The second part is practical and consists of 32 hours of exercises on fossils of the didactic collection (some hundreds of specimens).
Teaching Resources
Printouts of the Powerpoint files used during the class.

For further information:
Clarkson E.N.K. (1998) Invertebrate Palaeontology and evolution, 4th edition. Blackwell Science
Prothero D.R. (2013) Bringing fossils to life, 3rd edition. McGraw-Hill
Assessment methods and Criteria
Written test on the description of three fossil specimens and oral examination on the program of the first part of the course. The final mark is calculated on the average of the two results.
The students following the class may benefit of a simplified procedure for the oral examination. If they get positive results during two written tests on the first part of the course, they take the final oral examination only on Biostratigraphy.
The final mark is based on: 1) average mark of the two tests and written test on fossil description; 2) mark of the simplified oral exam.
GEO/01 - PALEONTOLOGY AND PALEOECOLOGY - University credits: 9
Practicals: 36 hours
Lessons: 48 hours
Shifts:
Professor: Balini Marco
Turno I
Professor: Bottini Cinzia
Turno II
Professor: Bottini Cinzia
Turno Unico
Professor: Bottini Cinzia