Introduction to Paleobiology and The Fossil Record

Michael J. Benton

ISBN: 9788126561025

604 pages

Exclusively distributed by Shri Adhya Educational Books



This book presents a comprehensive overview of the science of the history of life. Paleobiologists bring many analytical tools to bear in interpreting the fossil record and the book introduces the latest techniques, from multivariate investigations of biogeography and biostratigraphy to engineering analysis of dinosaur skulls and from homeobox genes to cladistics. All the well-known fossil groups are included, including microfossils and invertebrates, but an important feature is the thorough coverage of plants, vertebrates and trace fossils together with discussion of the origins of both life and the metazoans.



1. Paleontology as a science.

  • Paleontology in the modern world.
  • Paleontology as a science.
  • Steps to understanding.
  • Fossils and evolution.
  • Paleontology today.


2. Fossils in time and space.

  • Frameworks.
  • On the ground: lithostratigraphy.
  • Use of fossils: discovery of biostratigraphy.
  • Paleobiogeography.
  • Fossils in fold belts.


3. Taphonomy and the quality of the fossil record.

  • Fossil preservation.
  • Quality of the fossil record.


4. Paleoecology and paleoclimates.

  • Paleoecology.
  • Paleoclimates.


5. Macroevolution and the tree of life.

  • Evolution by natural selection.
  • Evolution and the fossil record.
  • The tree of life.


6. Fossil form and function.

  • Growth and form.
  • Evolution and development.
  • Interpreting the function of fossils.


7. Mass extinctions and biodiversity loss.

  • Mass extinctions.
  • The "big five" mass extinction events.
  • Extinction then and now.


8. The origin of life.

  • The origin of life.
  • Evidence for the origin of life.
  • Life diversifies: eukaryotes.


9. Protists.

  • Protista: introduction.
  • Eukaryotes arrive center stage.
  • Protozoa.
  • Chromista.


10. Origin of the metazoans.

  • Origins and classification.
  • Four key faunas.
  • Soft-bodied invertebrates.


11. The basal metazoans: sponges and corals.

  • Porifera.
  • Cnidaria.


12. Spiralians 1: lophophorates.

  • Brachiopoda.
  • Bryozoa.


13. Spiralians 2: mollusks.

  • Mollusks: introduction.
  • Early mollusks.
  • Class Bivalvia.
  • Class Gastropoda.
  • Class Cephalopoda.
  • Class Scaphopoda.
  • Class Rostroconcha.
  • Evolutionary trends within the Mollusca.


14. Ecdysozoa: arthropods.

  • Arthropods: introduction.
  • Early arthropod faunas.
  • Subphylum Trilobitomorpha.
  • Subphylum Chelicerata.
  • Subphylum Myriapoda.
  • Subphylum Hexapoda.
  • Subphylum Crustacea.


15. Deuterostomes: echinoderms and hemichordates.

  • Echinoderms.
  • Hemichordates.


16. Fishes and basal tetrapods.

  • Origin of the vertebrates.
  • Jaws and fish evolution.
  • Tetrapods.
  • Reign of the reptiles.


17. Dinosaurs and mammals.

  • Dinosaurs and their kin.
  • Bird evolution.
  • Rise of the mammals.
  • The line to humans.


18. Fossil plants.

  • Terrestrialization of plants.
  • The great coal forests.
  • Seed-bearing plants.
  • Flowering plants.


19. Trace fossils.

  • Understanding trace fossils.
  • Trace fossils in sediments.


20. Diversification of life.

  • The diversification of life.
  • Trends and radiations.
  • Ten major steps.


Review questions.


Further reading.


Appendix 1: Stratigraphic chart.

Appendix 2: Paleogeographic maps.