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Palaeobiology - The Biology of Ancient Organisms

Updated Tuesday, 7th September 2004

Palaeobiology - an introduction to the subject

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Introduction - what is palaeobiology?

The study of living organisms is called biology. Similarly, palaeo-biology is the study of ancient organisms. Prehistoric organisms are especially mysterious because they are only known from fossil remains, usually shells, bones and other hard parts. So how do we know what they ate, how they moved and how they behaved from this limited evidence? Compared with biologists, palaeobiologists have to use very different methods to determine the biology of the organisms they study.

How do I look? -Reconstruction and restoration

A reconstruction is created when the fossil skeletons of animals are put into their natural relationships. This may be in the form of a mounted skeleton as displayed in museums, or as a diagram of the skeleton. Restorations go beyond this by adding the muscles, organs, flesh and skin to the skeleton, either as a 3D model or as illustrations and paintings.

Restoring dinosaurs

The process of getting from fossil to reconstruction to restoration involves many scientific methods. These methods are being used in the Bristol Dinosaur Project. This project involves the reconstruction and ultimately the restoration of the Bristol dinosaur, Thecodontosaurus (nicknamed 'Theco').

Next: Body fossils and trace fossils


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