Curriculum Guideline

Paleontology: Life Through Time

Effective Date:
Course Code
GEOL 2320
Paleontology: Life Through Time
Earth & Environmental Sciences
Science & Technology
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Class 36, Lab 18
Contact Hours
2 hours lecture / 2 hours lab / 2 hours seminar
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

This course will involve 2 hours/week of direct lectures; 2 hours of lab in which students will directly examine fossil samples or work with specific interpretive problems; and 2 hours of seminar in which instructor and students will discuss key topics, view slide or film presentations, or work on individual projects. Field trips will be scheduled when appropriate. Readings will be assigned to supplement the lectures.

Course Description
This course investigates the nature and interpretation of the fossil record. Students will learn how fossils are used to indicate evolutionary changes, the structure of ancient populations, and the nature of ancient environments. A wide variety of invertebrate, vertebrate, and plant fossils will be examined in the lab to show how they are identified, named, and classified, and how the lifestyles of the original organisms are reconstructed. Field trips may be required.
Course Content
  1. Defining fossils
  • Fossilization types
  • Taxonomy, classification and systematics
  • Taphonomic theory and examples
  • Individuals and populations
  • The fossil record
    • Precambrian organisms
    • The rise of animals with hard parts
    • Marine Invertebrates of the Paleozoic
    • Land plants and their origins
    • Paleozoic vertebrates
    • Marine Invertebrates of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic
    • Mesozoic vertebrates
    • Cenozoic vertebrates
  • What we learn from the record
    • Biostratigraphy
    • Reconstructing lifestyles: form and function
    • The mechanisms of evolution
    • The record of evolution
    • Paleoenvironmental reconstruction
    • Paleobiogeography
    • Fossils and sedimentary rocks
    • Trace fossils
    Learning Outcomes

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

    1. Use a variety of means to identify and classify a wide variety of fossils.
    2. Describe and provide examples of taphonomic theory.
    3. Describe the major changes in life through geologic time and the evidence used to support the interpretation(s) of the fossil record.
    4. Show an understanding of how the principles of Biostratigraphy are used to reconstruct ancient environments.
    5. Show an understanding of the mechanisms of evolution.
    6. Show an understanding of how fossils can be used to reconstruct tectonic plate boundaries.
    7. Describe the uses of trace fossils and be able to identify a variety of trace fossils.
    Means of Assessment
    Mid-term exam 25%
    Lab paper / Project 20%
    Lab exercises (5, bi-weekly) 25%
    Final exam 30%


    Textbook Materials

    Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students

    Stearn, Colin W. and Robert L. Carroll (1989), Paleontology: The Record of Life. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.


    GEOL 1120 OR GEOL 1121, BIOL 1110 or permission of instructor