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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Palaeontology (EASC10096)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryFossils are the remains of prehistoric life on Earth, and they record important information about the origin, diversity and evolution of life, as well as the palaeonvironments certain rocks were deposited in. This course will concentrate on important aspects of evolution, palaeoecology and extinction of the main invertebrate and vertebrate groups of organisms. The course will comprise lectures, practicals, four excursions, and a museum visit. The following Scottish localities will be visited: Dob's Lin, Pentland Hills, Fife, and East Lothian. The main aim of the museum and field excursions is that students obtain a comprehensive view of fossils (and thus history of life and evolution) throughout the geological timescale (Paleozoic and Mesozoic) in the context of Scottish geology. This course will also introduce students to the main groups of fossils they will likely encounter during fieldtrips and mapping projects, and will give students the ability to identify these fossils and interpret them to understand palaeoenvironments and depositional environments. Basic knowledge of the history of life (like that taught in ELE) is assumed.
Course description Week 1 (September 21): Introductory lecture and practical introducing the major groups of invertebrate fossils that will be encountered in the field excursions. Division of class into groups for eventual group presentations on field sites.

Week 2 (September 28): Excursion to Dob¿s Lin (Ordovician, graptolites)

Week 3 (October 5): Excursion to Pentland Hills (Silurian, brachiopods, trilobites, crinoids, corals, sponges, bryozoans, etc.).

Week 4 (October 12): Excursion to Fife (Carboniferous, brachiopods, crinoids, bryozoans, etc.)

Week 5 (October 19): Excursion to East Lothian (Carboniferous, biostratigraphic exercise, logging a section).

Week 6 (October 26): Visit to the National Museum of Scotland storehouse in Granton (putting the field trip fossils into context).

Week 7 (November 2): Lectures and practicals on vertebrate palaeontology

Week 8 (November 9): Lectures on major evolutionary transitions and evolution in deep time

Week 9 (November 16): Group presentations on field trip sites. Fossil identification reports due.

Week 10 (November 23): Lectures and practicals on mass extinctions and biodiversity patterns

Week 11 (November 30): No formal lectures or practicals, but an opportunity to review for the exam with lecturers and demonstrators. Sedimentary log due.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Evolution of the Living Earth (EASC08023)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. The ability to collect, identify, and interpret major groups of fossils that may be encountered in the field.
  2. An appreciation of the importance of fossils, and how they are used in biostratigraphy, recognition of paleoenvironments, and to track patterns of evolution and extinction throughout the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic.
  3. Increased general knowledge of Scottish geology and how Scotland has changed during the Paleozoic-Mesozoic.
  4. The ability to compile a sedimentary log in the field.
  5. The ability to communicate information on fossils via reports and group presentations.
Reading List
1. Benton, M.J. and Harper, D.A.T., 2009, Basic Palaeontology: Introduction to Paleobiology and the fossil record, Wiley-Blackwell (this will be the main course textbook)
2. Clarkson, E.N.K., 2001, Invertebrate palaeontology and evolution, Wiley-Blackwell (this book will be most useful in helping to identify major fossil groups)
3. Michael J. Benton, 2014, Vertebrate Palaeontology, Wiley-Blackwell (this book is for background reading related to the vertebrate palaeontology lectures)
4. Stephen L. Brusatte, 2012, Dinosaur Paleobiology, Wiley-Blackwell (this book is for background reading related to the vertebrate palaeontology lectures)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements None
Course organiserDr Stephen Brusatte
Tel: (0131 6)50 6039
Course secretaryMiss Sarah Thomas
Tel: (0131 6)50 8510
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