Paleontology is the branch of science that deals with the study of fossils to determine evolution of plants and animals. Georges Cuvier laid the foundation of modern palaeontology. Paleontology is classified into Palaeozoology or the study of animal fossls and palaeobotany or the study of plant fossils. Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of living organisms. Sometimes the whole organisms can be preserved. The harder body parts such as woods and skeletons remain as fossils. The softer parts of an organism decompose, minerals penetrate into their left cavities making the harder parts more perfectly preserved. This is called petrification. Mineralisation is the replacement of certain structures of a dead organism by lime, silica etc to convert it into a fossil over time. Footprints and the impressions of hard parts of body in mud, sediment, volcanic lava etc which remain as casts or moulds serves as fossils. Age of fossils is determined by analysing the radioactive materials present in rock strata of fossil. The approximate age can be determined by calculating half life of radioactive substances. Radioactive carbon dating and radioactive potassium dating are two such methods used. Fossils help us in understanding the process of organic evolution. Fossils also act as indicators for prehistoric climate and help in reconstructing palaeographic maps of geological eras. Through fossil records, the phylogeny of many organisms can be studied, like horse, elephant, man etc. Eohippus, Mesohippus, Merichippus, Pliohippus and Equus are the evolutionary fossils of horse. Fossil of strange animal Archaeopteryx, was recovered from Jurassic rocks, existed 150 million years ago. Archaeopteryx is a transitional fossil that shows characters of both reptiles and birds. Several regions in India such as parts of M.P, Bihar and Orissa are rich in fossil remains.
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