Palaeontology, the study of the life of the past, represents the link between biological and geological disciplines. Palaeontology and related disciplines (i.e. palaeoecology and palaeobiogeography), are the key to understand present times. The course will illustrate the genesis of fossils (taphonomy), and the importance of fossils as (1) age indicators (biostratigraphy and biochronology), (2) tools for the reconstruction of the past distribution of emerged lands (palaeobiogeography), and (3) proxies to reconstruct environments and climates of the past (palaeoecology s.l.). Particular attention will be dedicated to detect and discuss the main changes in biodiversity through time (adaptive radiations, extinctions). We will illustrate the principles of scientific classification (nomenclature, taxonomy, parataxonomy, taxonomic schools) and the theory of evolution. The theoretical part will be followed by the discussion on the evolution of selected systematic groups. Some of these taxa will be the subject of detailed studies aimed to their recognition in the field.
teacher profile | teaching materials


Introduction to the history of Palaeontology (2h).
Taphonomy (2h).
Systematics: classification.
The species concept. different taxonomy schools (2h).
Palaeoecology: marine palaeoecology. Elements of continental palaeoecology.
Palaeoichnology (4h). Biostratigraphy: biozones. Biostratigraphic correlations (4h).
Evolution: fossils and evolution. Lamark’s and Neo-lamarckist’s evoluton theory. Darwin’s evolution theory. Microevolution. Synthetic and Punctuated Equilibria theories. Macroevolution. Extinction. Adaptive radiation (8h).
Palaeobiogeography: the historical biogeography: dispersion and vicariance. The ecological biogeography. Plate tectonics and palaeobiogeography (2h).

The origin of life (2h)
The Cambrian "explosion" (2h)
Selection of fossil organisms (20h)

Core Documentation

AAVV, 2020 - Manuale di Paleontologia. Fondamenti e applicazioni. Idelson-Gnocchi;
Raffi S. & Serpagli E., 1993 - Introduzione Alla Paleontologia. U.T.E.T.;
Benton M.J. & Harper D.A.T., 2009 - Introduction to Paleobiology and the fossil record, Wiley-Blackwell.

Type of delivery of the course

Interactive classroom-taught lesson. Explanations and discussions of the main topics by means of ppt slides, exercises and schemes/drawings on the chalkboard

Type of evaluation

The examination consists in an evaluation interview in order to assess the student acquired knowledge of the topics discussed during the lessons.