Evolution of Life: Fossils, Molecules, and Culture

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Da Vinci described what are bioerosion ichnofossils: [18]. Such fossil borings allowed Leonardo to confute the Inorganic theory, i. With the words of Leonardo da Vinci: [19] [13].

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Da Vinci discussed not only fossil borings, but also burrows. Leonardo used fossil burrows as paleoenvironmental tools to demonstrate the marine nature of sedimentary strata: [18] [18]. Other Renaissance naturalists studied invertebrate ichnofossils during the Renaissance, but none of them reached such accurate conclusions.


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In fact, during the s invertebrate ichnofossils were explained as fucoids, or seaweed, and their true nature was widely understood only by the early s. During the Age of Reason , fundamental changes in natural philosophy were reflected in the analysis of fossils.

When Did Multicellular Life Begin?

In Athanasius Kircher attributed giant bones to extinct races of giant humans in his Mundus subterraneus. In the same year Robert Hooke published Micrographia , an illustrated collection of his observations with a microscope. One of these observations was entitled "Of Petrify'd wood, and other Petrify'd bodies", which included a comparison between petrified and ordinary wood. He concluded that petrified wood was ordinary wood that had been soaked with "water impregnated with stony and earthy particles".

He then suggested that several kinds of fossil sea shells were formed from ordinary shells by a similar process. He argued against the prevalent view that such objects were "Stones form'd by some extraordinary Plastick virtue latent in the Earth itself".

The evidence for evolution

Hooke was prepared to accept the possibility that some such fossils represented species that had become extinct, possibly in past geological catastrophes. In Nicholas Steno wrote a paper about a shark head he had dissected. He compared the teeth of the shark with the common fossil objects known as " tongue stones " or glossopetrae. He concluded that the fossils must have been shark teeth. Steno then took an interest in the question of fossils, and to address some of the objections to their organic origin he began studying rock strata.

What a fossil revolution reveals about the history of ‘big data’

The result of this work was published in as Forerunner to a Dissertation on a solid naturally enclosed in a solid. In this book, Steno drew a clear distinction between objects such as rock crystals that really were formed within rocks and those such as fossil shells and shark teeth that were formed outside of those rocks. Steno realized that certain kinds of rock had been formed by the successive deposition of horizontal layers of sediment and that fossils were the remains of living organisms that had become buried in that sediment.

Steno who, like almost all 17th century natural philosophers, believed that the earth was only a few thousand years old, resorted to the Biblical flood as a possible explanation for fossils of marine organisms that were far from the sea. Despite the considerable influence of Forerunner , naturalists such as Martin Lister — and John Ray — continued to question the organic origin of some fossils. They were particularly concerned about objects such as fossil Ammonites , which Hooke claimed were organic in origin, that did not resemble any known living species.

This raised the possibility of extinction , which they found difficult to accept for philosophical and theological reasons. In his work Epochs of Nature Georges Buffon referred to fossils, in particular the discovery of fossils of tropical species such as elephants and rhinoceros in northern Europe, as evidence for the theory that the earth had started out much warmer than it currently was and had been gradually cooling.

In Georges Cuvier presented a paper on living and fossil elephants comparing skeletal remains of Indian and African elephants to fossils of mammoths and of an animal he would later name mastodon utilizing comparative anatomy. He established for the first time that Indian and African elephants were different species, and that mammoths differed from both and must be extinct. He further concluded that the mastodon was another extinct species that also differed from Indian or African elephants, more so than mammoths.

Cuvier made another powerful demonstration of the power of comparative anatomy in paleontology when he presented a second paper in on a large fossil skeleton from Paraguay, which he named Megatherium and identified as a giant sloth by comparing its skull to those of two living species of tree sloth. Cuvier's ground-breaking work in paleontology and comparative anatomy led to the widespread acceptance of extinction. He also pointed out that since mammoths and woolly rhinoceros were not the same species as the elephants and rhinoceros currently living in the tropics, their fossils could not be used as evidence for a cooling earth.

In a pioneering application of stratigraphy , William Smith , a surveyor and mining engineer, made extensive use of fossils to help correlate rock strata in different locations.

Introduction to evolution

He created the first geological map of England during the late s and early 19th century. He established the principle of faunal succession , the idea that each strata of sedimentary rock would contain particular types of fossils, and that these would succeed one another in a predictable way even in widely separated geologic formations. At the same time, Cuvier and Alexandre Brongniart , an instructor at the Paris school of mine engineering, used similar methods in an influential study of the geology of the region around Paris. In , Cuvier identified a fossil found in Maastricht as a giant marine reptile that would later be named Mosasaurus.

He also identified, from a drawing, another fossil found in Bavaria as a flying reptile and named it Pterodactylus.

How species are identified | Science | The Guardian

He speculated, based on the strata in which these fossils were found, that large reptiles had lived prior to what he was calling "the age of mammals". Mary Anning , a professional fossil collector since age eleven, collected the fossils of a number of marine reptiles from the Jurassic marine strata at Lyme Regis. These included the first ichthyosaur skeleton to be recognized as such, which was collected in , and the first two plesiosaur skeletons ever found in and Many of her discoveries would be described scientifically by the geologists William Conybeare , Henry De la Beche , and William Buckland.

This led her to suggest to Buckland that they were fossilized feces, which he named coprolites , and which he used to better understand ancient food chains. In , Buckland found and described a lower jaw from Jurassic deposits from Stonesfield.

carpvouldeore.tk He determined that the bone belonged to a carnivorous land-dwelling reptile he called Megalosaurus. That same year Gideon Mantell realized that some large teeth he had found in , in Cretaceous rocks from Tilgate , belonged to a giant herbivorous land-dwelling reptile. He called it Iguanodon , because the teeth resembled those of an iguana. All of this led Mantell to publish an influential paper in entitled "The Age of Reptiles" in which he summarized the evidence for there having been an extended time during which the earth had teemed with large reptiles, and he divided that era, based in what rock strata different types of reptiles first appeared, into three intervals that anticipated the modern periods of the Triassic , Jurassic , and Cretaceous.

In the English anatomist Richard Owen would create a new order of reptiles, which he called Dinosauria , for Megalosaurus , Iguanodon , and Hylaeosaurus. This evidence that giant reptiles had lived on Earth in the past caused great excitement in scientific circles, [35] and even among some segments of the general public. This discovery, known as the Stonesfield mammal, was a much discussed anomaly. Cuvier at first thought it was a marsupial , but Buckland later realized it was a primitive placental mammal.


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  8. Due to its small size and primitive nature, Buckland did not believe it invalidated the overall pattern of an age of reptiles, when the largest and most conspicuous animals had been reptiles rather than mammals. In Alexandre Brongniart 's son, the botanist Adolphe Brongniart , published the introduction to a longer work on the history of fossil plants.

    Adolphe Brongniart concluded that the history of plants could roughly be divided into four parts. The first period was characterized by cryptogams. The second period was characterized by the appearance of the conifers. The third period brought emergence of the cycads , and the fourth by the development of the flowering plants such as the dicotyledons.

    The transitions between each of these periods was marked by sharp discontinuities in the fossil record, with more gradual changes within the periods. Brongniart's work is the foundation of paleobotany and reinforced the theory that life on earth had a long and complex history, and different groups of plants and animals made their appearances in successive order. The increasing attention being paid to fossil plants in the first decades of the 19th century would trigger a significant change in the terminology for the study of past life.

    The editor of the influential French scientific journal, Journal de Physique , a student of Cuvier's named Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville, coined the term "paleozoologie" in to refer to the work Cuvier and others were doing to reconstruct extinct animals from fossil bones. However, Blainville began looking for a term that could refer to the study of both fossil animal and plant remains. After trying some unsuccessful alternatives, he hit on "palaeontologie" in Blainville's term for the study of the fossilized organisms quickly became popular and was anglicized into "paleontology".

    In Cuvier's landmark paper on living and fossil elephants, he referred to a single catastrophe that destroyed life to be replaced by the current forms. As a result of his studies of extinct mammals, he realized that animals such as Palaeotherium had lived before the time of the mammoths, which led him to write in terms of multiple geological catastrophes that had wiped out a series of successive faunas. Catastrophism had a religious overtone in Britain that was absent elsewhere. Partly in response to what he saw as unsound and unscientific speculations by William Buckland and other practitioners of flood geology, Charles Lyell advocated the geological theory of uniformitarianism in his influential work Principles of Geology.

    For instance he argued that the absence of birds and mammals from the earliest fossil strata was merely an imperfection in the fossil record attributable to the fact that marine organisms were more easily fossilized. He was not successful in gaining support for his view of the fossil record, which he believed did not support a theory of directional succession.

    In the early 19th century Jean Baptiste Lamarck used fossils to argue for his theory of the transmutation of species. Like Lamarck's theory it maintained that life had progressed from the simple to the complex. In the same paper that coined the term dinosaur Richard Owen pointed out that dinosaurs were at least as sophisticated and complex as modern reptiles, which he claimed contradicted transmutational theories. Geologists such as Adam Sedgwick , and Roderick Murchison continued, in the course of disputes such as The Great Devonian Controversy , to make advances in stratigraphy.

    They described newly recognized geological periods, such as the Cambrian , the Silurian , the Devonian , and the Permian. Increasingly, such progress in stratigraphy depended on the opinions of experts with specialized knowledge of particular types of fossils such as William Lonsdale fossil corals , and John Lindley fossil plants who both played a role in the Devonian controversy and its resolution.