Paleontology


Career Objectives

Know animal and plant life of the Earth’s past, the environment in which it developed, its evolution and biodiversity.


Professional Profile

Professional who rebuilds extinct life forms of the past.

He has a solid scientific background in the specialty and knowledge in different areas of biology and geology, necessary to understand the various paleontology aspects.

His academic training allows him to access a postgraduate in the discipline.

This career can also be studied as a specialty of Bachelor of Geology or Bachelor of Biology.


Specific tasks or activities carried out in the profession

Research activities: He studies evidence of mummified remains of flora and fauna founds in *sedimentary rocks, such as *fossils, molds or traces that can reach from thousands of years to millions of years.

He describes both plant and animals species found in fossils.

He describes and identifies from large fossils to microscopic bacteria.

In the study of microscopic bacteria, he uses *sampling techniques as well as preparation and observation techniques in the microscope.

He determines the age of different *fossils and their kinship relationship.

He reconstructs the skeletal parts of the organism and also the organic parts that disappeared during *fossilization. For this, he uses *anatomical biological principles and functional *morphological principles, as well as the physical and biological laws to which they have been subjected. This way he figures out their appearance when they were alive; the food they ate; how they reproduced; their behavior, etc.

He obtains the sequence of *fossil species over time and space.

He interprets, analyzes and *synthesizes relevant data and information that allow collecting statistical information.

He performs mathematical studies of fossil *populations to discover the structure of these ancient communities.

He applies *geology knowledge to understand the local environment where these life forms lived, such as information of the temperature and climate of that time.

He investigates the adaptation of these fossil *species to the ecosystem of antiquity.

He investigates the overall *geological processes that acted when the *fossil was still a living organism, to know the possible causes that produced its extinction.

He reconstructs the evolutionary development of various organisms and relates their evolutionary patterns.

He makes paleontological replicas that are copies of skeletons, or parts of them, corresponding to extinct fauna specimens.

From the analysis of *fossils, he provides relative ages of the *rocks where these have been found.

He investigates ancient geographies such as the movement of continents, through the relation of *rocks deposited at the same time in distant continents.

He investigates how physical changes of the world geography and also climate have affected the evolution of life; how *ecosystems have adapted to changes in the environment and how this has affected biodiversity.

He designates experiments that allow him to solve problems from the *quantitative point of view.

He participates in interdisciplinary topics that address new ideas, approaches and concepts in functional *morphology, *macroevolution, *molecular paleontology, *paleoclimatology, *biostratigraphy, *geochronology and *paleoceanography.

He draws conclusions and prepares reports with personal contributions and points of view.

Implementation Activities:

He contributes in the environmental impact assessment.

He participates in the *management of natural spaces.

He advises the oil industry on the study of *rocks, defining their origin, mineralogical composition, age, texture, hardness and any vestige that allows determining the age and/or the *sedimentation environment of the place.

He relates certain fossil organisms with the formation of mineral deposits, such as *phytoplankton with petroleum, coal, *phosphates, etc. He participates in the *cadastral survey of places where the existence of potential deposits are presumed, to safeguard the goods that make up the Paleontological Heritage.

He intervenes in administrative activities relevant to compliance with the Laws of Protection of the Paleontological Heritage.

He contributes as a *legal expert in the determination, valuation and origin of *fossils, at the request of competent justice in the application of the existing laws.

He teaches in higher education in subjects of his specialty.


Occupational Field

Natural History Museums

Government agencies being part of Departments of Paleontological and Archeological Heritage Conservation and/or Patrimonial Records of Paleontological goods

Oil Industry

Research Centers

Media

Jurisdictional Scope

Universities


Estimated time of College years

5 years

Main courses considered in the study plan

Basic Training Courses

*Mathematics

*Physics

*Organic and Inorganic Chemistry

General *Geology

Professional Area

*Botany

*Zoology

*Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology

Introduction to Sciences of the Atmosphere and Oceans

*Sedimentology and *Stratigraphy

*Biostratigraphy

*General Paleontology

*Paleobotany

*Paleozoology

*Micropaleontology

*Population Dynamics

*Genetics

*Biometrics

*Research Methodology

*Ecology

*Field methods and techniques

Specialties

*Functional morphology, *Macroevolution, *Molecular Paleontology, *Paleoclimatology, *Biostratigraphy and *Geochronology.

*Paleoceanography, *Palynology, *Ontogeny, *Phylogenetics, among others.


Vocation, Skills and Interests required in the candidate for this career


Interests

Appreciation for the environment and biodiversity

Curiosity to give meaning to what is observed from the natural world; know its causes and effects

Special interest in animal and plant biology

Natural inclination to perceive and observe differences and similarities in the anatomy of animals as well as plants

As a child, he liked collecting shells or bird bones that he found in the beach; collecting plants or a similar activity

Natural inclination to decipher and investigate

Appreciation for sciences

Predisposition to the handling of information

Pleased by the organization and methodical planning of a task/work


Skills

Good performance in Biology, Organic and Inorganic Chemistry

*Analysis and Synthesis Capacity

Visual perception of details regarding shapes

Fine motor skills

Adaptation to work in teams


Vocation

Expanding the frontiers of knowledge seeking to unveil the evolutionary mysteries of Nature

Or any specific dream or longing which feels involved or oriented towards this direction.

Candidate’s Personality

Methodical

Detail-oriented

Patient

Rigorous, critical spirit


Work Scope

Fieldwork, specifically in paleontological or archeological sites

Laboratory work


Related Careers

Geology, Biological Sciences, Biological Anthropology

Glossary of Terms

*Analysis: Method that starts by focusing on the whole to separate it in its basic parts and see the relationship between its parts.

*Anatomy: Study of how the body is formed, its parts and its constituent organs, considering their shape, location and the relationship between them.

*Phylogenetic Tree: Diagram that shows the history of the evolutionary development of a group of organisms.

*Ancestry: Ancestors.

*Database: Data stock organized in a way that it is easy to access, store and update them.

*Biostratigraphy: Geology discipline that uses the identification of fossils as tool to be able to define the relative ages of *strata; since when identifying fossil’s age, the age of the *sediments that contain it is also known. Also, he relates these *strata with others located in other areas, establishing a *chronological relationship between them.

*Biometrics (Course): Statistical concepts. –Statistical methods (collection of statistical data). *Sampling techniques; statistical description of an amount of data) -Use of Statistics in Paleontology and Geology. –Application of *quantitative methods to solve paleontology problems, such as: study of the structure of an animal or plant community; study of the factors that explain the distinction of species in a community; estimation of the sizes of *populations; Study of the physical environment and its impact on plant and animal communities; Study of the diversity of species; Study of the evolution of a community, etc.

*Biometrics: Branch of statistics that deals with the measurement of biological data.

*Botany (Course): *External morphology of plants. –Structure and functioning of a plant cell. –Main differences between a plant cell and an animal cell. *Morphology and function of plant tissues and organs. –Classification and diversity of plant organisms: methods and techniques to identify, name and describe all the groups of plant organisms. –Material used in the laboratory; among others.

*Cell: The smallest organic and functional unit of all living beings.

*Cytological: Related to *cells.

*Phylogenetic nomenclature: It is a classification of the species based on the relations of evolutionary proximity between them, reconstructing the history of their diversification from the origin of life on Earth to the present.

*Chronological: Order of events in relation to the moment they occur in time.

*Population Dynamics (Course): Distribution of plant and animal communities in different *ecosystems. *Stock structure. –Changes that biological species and *populations undergo over time and in different environments: Changes in their size, physical dimension of their members, structure of age and sex. –Factors that cause these changes and the mechanisms by which they occur.

*Ecology (Course): Origin and evolution of animals. –Animal diversity and the relationships with the environment and its preservation. –Behavior patterns as a response to the environment. –Origin of plants and their geographical distribution. –Classification of extinct and living plants and their interrelationship. –Current biological diversity and strategies related to their preservation. –Natural *ecosystems; among others.

*Ecosystem: Natural system formed by a set of living organisms and the physical environment where they live.

*Species: Set of living organisms that share certain biological properties.

*Stratigraphy: Branch of Geology that studies *strata.

*Stratum: It is called stratum to each of the layers of *sediments that are formed by the *sedimentation process.

*Molecular Structure: Relative to how a molecule is formed.

*Stock Structure: It is the classification of a *population according to different factors such as age, sex, etc.

*Phylogenetics: Study that tracks the *ancestry and descent patterns of an organism to discover the evolutionary history of the organisms.

*Physics (Course): Newtonian mechanics. –Movement and rotation. –Oscillatory movement and wave motion. –Fluid mechanics. –Electromagnetism; among others.

*Physical Chemistry: Physical studies at molecular level, such as changes in temperature, pressure, volume, heat and work.

*Physiology: Science that studies the biological functions of living beings and their parts.

*Phytoplankton: Microscopic plant organisms (microscopic algae and other plant organisms) that float in fresh and marine waters.

*Phosphate: Minerals with high phosphorus content.

*Fossils: Partly or totally mineralized biological remains that have been preserved in *sedimentary rocks.

*Fossilization: Physicochemical process that has allowed the preservation of animals and plants in sedimentary rocks.

*Gene: It is the unit of genetic information that is transmitted to the offspring (a species transmits a set of genes to the offspring).

*Genetics: Biological processes involved in the transmission and expression of hereditary characteristics in living beings.

*Genetics (Course): Genetics concepts. –What are *genes and how do they work. –Structural and molecular comparison of organisms. –Information coming from fossils. –Information of DNA *molecules and *morphology (looking for genetic resemblance). –Obtaining of *Phylogenetic trees. *Phylogenetic nomenclature (looking for their evolutionary relationships). –Diversification of species. –Evolutionary history of organisms; among others.

*Geochronology: Science that determines the age and *chronological sequence of geological events in the history of the Earth.

*Geology: Science that studies the composition of the Earth, its internal structure, its minerals, rocks and its physical processes through time.

*General Geology (Course): Theories about the origin of the Universe. –The solar system and the Earth. –Structure of the earth’s crust. –Structures and composition of rocks. –Types of rocks; Geochemistry of *igneous, *sedimentary and *metamorphic rocks. –Environments and geological processes involved in the formation of rocks. –Mineral deposits. –Fossils and Historical Geology; among others.

*Analytic Geometry: Part of mathematics that tackles geometrical problems through coordinate graphs; with this it is possible to transform them into algebraic expressions.

*Management: Make the enquiries and procedures to carry out a task or project.

*Introduction to Molecular and Cell Biology (Course): Structure of a *cell. –Function and chemical composition of each of the parts that make up the cell. –Chemical reactions that occur inside cells such as carbohydrate (sugar), lipid (fat) and protein *metabolism. –Animal and plant cells. –Instruments and techniques to study *cells: Use of microscopes and techniques necessary for the production of *cytological preparations. *Molecular structure of living beings. –Manipulation of biological *samples, conducting experiments and functional test analyzing biological aspects.

*Macroevolution: Macroevolution comprises the transformations and global trends of life on a large scale, and not the evolution of only one species.

*Mathematics (Course): Algebra, Geometry and *Trigonometry. –Matrices and determinants. –Invertible matrix. –Application to geological and paleontological problems. –Solving systems of Linear equations. –Vectors. *Analytic Geometry. –Applications in geology and paleontology.

*Metabolism: Way in which the organism converts food into energy and then eliminates waste.

*Research Methodology: Stages of the scientific research process and its application to problem solving.

*Quantitative Methods: Procedures to express characteristics of a reality through numbers using statistical techniques and methods.

* Field Methods and Techniques (Course):

-Techniques for the location of fossils

-Fossil digging techniques:

Methods used in the extraction of fossils from rocks:

Mechanical methods by propelling certain abrasive powders, Heating Techniques where sudden changes in temperature are used to separate the fossil from the rock where it is deposited.

-Percussion techniques by using a *pneumatic system that cleans fossils; -Chemical methods that used different types of acids or hydrogen peroxide for the extraction of the fossil; this, depending on the type of rock where the fossil is embedded. –Chemical techniques and methods to extract microfossils.

Fossil Preparation in the laboratory:

Recovery and restoration techniques and methods of fossil remains

Image analysis of microvertebrate fossils

Use of equipment and instruments in the preparation of fossils for their storage and preservation

*Biometric techniques and *database development

Use and application of information technology in the collection, handling, analysis and presentation of data

*Micropaleontology: It is the study of microscopic fossils (microfossils and nannofossils), for which special *sampling, preparation and observation techniques with the microscope are used.

*Molecule: Group of atoms that forms the smallest unit of a substance.

*DNA Molecules: Biomolecules that are present in all the *cells of the organism and constitute the inheritance that is transmitted from one generation to another.

*Morphology: Study of the organic form and structure.

*Functional Morphology: Functional morphology deals with the study of the organic form and its characteristics in relation to the function they perform. In the case of Paleontology, it relates the structures observed in *fossils with the function they performed in the organism when it was alive.

*Sample: It is a set of data selected from a population which must be representative of that population.

*Sampling: Collection of *samples using certain techniques.

*Ontogeny: Study that describes the development of an organism, from the fertilized egg to its old age, passing through the adult form.

*Paleobotany (Course): Study of plant fossils and microfossils in their descriptive (such as their *anatomy and *morphology), systematic (classification of species), taxonomic, (kinship relation), physiological (functional), phytogeographic (geographical distribution), ecological (adaptation to the environment) and evolutionary aspects in the geological time.

*Paleoceanography: It is the study of the evolution of oceans.

*Paleoclimatology: Study of the climate characteristics of the Earth throughout its history.

*General Paleontology (Course): Paleontology principles. *Paleovertebrates (vertebrate fossils), *Paleoinvertebrates (invertebrate fossils). *Micropaleontology. *Morphology, geographical and *stratigraphic distribution of the most important plant and animal fossils. –Criteria used for the fossil classification. –Fossilization processes: factors that intervene in fossilization, such as the nature of the organism, the type of environment, the process that goes from the living organism to its *sedimentation, the burial conditions and the formation process of the *sedimentary rock that is compacted from loose sediments. –Types of fossilization: mummification; carbonization; petrifaction; molds, traces.

Formation of fossil deposits

Field and laboratory methods and techniques used in paleontology

*Molecular Paleontology: Analysis of fossil biomolecules.

*Paleozoology (Course): Invertebrate, vertebrate fossil animals and microfossils in their descriptive (such as their *anatomy and *morphology), systematic (classification of species), taxonomic (kinship relation), physiological (functional, phytogeographic (geographical distribution), ecological (adaptation to the environment) and evolutionary aspects in the geological time.

*Palynology: Part of botany devoted to the study of pollen and spores.

*Legal expert: Legally authorized person to deliver information on matters in which he is an expert.

*Population: In biology, a population is a set of organisms or individuals of the same *species that coexists in the same space and time.

*Organic and Inorganic Chemistry (Course): Atomic structure of matter. –Organic and inorganic compounds. –Solutions. –Chemical reactions. –Chemical bond. –Chemical equilibrium. –Kinetic theory of gases. –Safety in the chemical laboratory, among others.

*Cadastral Survey: Collection and registration of data that will form an Urban and Rural Territorial Information System.

*Rock: Mass of consolidated and compact mineral matter, that can be classified by age, hardness or its origin, in *igneous rocks, *sedimentary rocks or *metamorphic rocks.

*Igneous Rocks: They are rocks that are formed when the molten rock (magma) cools and solidifies.

*Metamorphic Rocks: They are rocks that have been subjected to high pressures, high temperatures or subjected to a fluid that causes changes in their composition.

*Sedimentary Rocks: They are rocks that are formed by the accumulation of *sediments that have solidified.

*Sedimentation: It is the process by which the *sediment moves, by the action of gravity, or a stream of water, etc, from high areas to the lower areas where it is deposited.

*Sediment: The sediment a material accumulated on the surface of a piece of land that arrived there by the effect of the wind, rain, circulation of surface or ground water, displacement of sea or river water masses, etc.

*Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (Course): Processes that generate *sediments and their sliding towards sedimentation areas, both in continental and marine environments and that form *sedimentary rocks. –Components of *sediments. –Types of *sedimentary rocks. –Layout and characteristics of *strata. –Microscopy of rocks. –Evolutionary history of sediments. –Interpretation and reconstruction of the sedimentary environments of the past, among others.

*Synthesis: Mental operation that consists in the accumulation of different data to represent them under a single idea. –Summary.

*Pneumatic Systems: Systems that use compressed air to move and make mechanisms work.

*Trigonometry: Mathematical expressions that relate the sides to the angles of a triangle.

*Zoology (Course):

*Morphology and *Physiology of animals

Levels of organization of living beings, from the molecular to the communities of organism

Development and natural environments in which they live: how they live, how they reproduce, how they are distributed and how they behave with each other

*Morphological diversity of animals

Classification Techniques

Among others

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