Curriculum Guideline

Paleontology: Life Through Time

Effective Date:
Course Code
EAES 2320
Paleontology: Life Through Time
Earth & Environmental Sciences
Science & Technology
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture = 2 hrs/week, Labs = 4 hrs/week
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

The course will have 2 hours of lecture and 4 hours of lab every week.

Course Description
This course investigates the nature and interpretation of the fossil record. Students will learn how fossils are used to indicate evolutionary changes, paleoecology and ancient environments. Investigation of vertebrate, invertebrate and plant fossils is emphasize in lab to show how they are identified, named, classified and reconstructed. Field trips may be required.
Course Content

Topics covered in lecture:

Basics of paleontology

  • Fossilization and preservation types
  • Taxonomy, classification and systematics
  • Incompleteness of the fossil record and taphonomy

The fossil record of life (integrated with lab)

  • Origin of life as seen in the fossil record
  • Precambrian organisms
  • Origin of complex and multicellular eukaryotes
  • Marine invertebrates of the Paleozoic
  • Origin of terrestrial life, including land plants and tetrapods
  • Marine invertebrates of the Mesozoic & Cenozoic
  • Mesozoic terrestrial life
  • Cenozoic terrestrial life
  • Microfossils

Interpreting the fossil record

  • Biostratigraphy
  • Relating morphology to lifestyles and niches
  • Seeing evolution in the fossil record
  • Cladistics and the reconstruction of evolutionary relationships
  • Reconstructing paleoenvironments from fossils, including trace fossils and microfossils
  • Paleobiogeography
  • Fossils as rock formers

Labs may include the following topics:

  • Cladistics
  • Fossil preparation and extraction
  • Cyanobacteria and stromatolites
  • Trilobites
  • Echinoderms
  • Cnidarians
  • Brachiopods
  • Molluscans
  • Fish
  • Tetrapods
  • Plants







Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course the student should be able to:

  1. Utilize morphology, anatomy, composition and age to distinguish between and identify a wide variety of fossils.
  2. Infer the depositional history and other taphonomic factors from fossils and their preservation.
  3. Describe major changes in life though geologic time and the evidence used to support interpretation(s) of the fossil record. 
  4. Apply biostratigraphic principles to infer environmental changes as well as age relationships.
  5. Explain how the mechanisms of evolution can be seen through the fossil record.
  6. Use the distribution of fossils to make inferences about paleobiogeography and ancient plate configurations.
  7. Identify and describe the uses of trace fossils and microfossils.



Means of Assessment
Lab exercises 10-15%
Lab project 10-15%
Lab final 10-15%
Lab Components 40%
Lecture homework assignments 0-10%
Lecture midterm 20-25%
Final exam 25-30%
Lecture Components 60%

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation will be based on the table above.

Textbook Materials

Students should consult the bookstore for the latest required course materials, including textbook.


Prothero, D.R. 2013. Bringing fossils to life: an introduction to paleobiology, 2nd. edition. Columbia University Press, New York. Or equivalent.


One of EAES 1120, GEOL 1120, GEOG 1120, EAES 1121, GEOL 1121, EAES 1130, GEOL 1130, BIOL 1110 or permission of instructor.