Principles of Paleoecology: An Introduction to the Study of How and Where Animals and Plants Lived in the Past

Principles of Paleoecology: An Introduction to the Study of How and Where Animals and Plants Lived in the Past

Principles of Paleoecology: An Introduction to the Study of How and Where Animals and Plants Lived in the Past

Principles of Paleoecology: An Introduction to the Study of How and Where Animals and Plants Lived in the Past

Excerpt

Fossils were once animals and plants that lived and breathed, fed and bred, moved and died. Their lives were a continuous battle with their environment. Their story is the essential prelude to the fleeting present and the unknown future.

The object of this book is to show how we can study these fossils as once-living things and not simply as dry lumps of stone in a museum.

Unfortunately a dichotomy has developed in paleontology, with the morphological systematists on one branch and the ecologists on the other. The former commonly regard the latter as impractical theorizers who are unable or unwilling to read the vast mountain of relevant literature, while the latter commonly regard the systematists as hopelessly old-fashioned museum paleontologists, who only think of fossils as specimens in drawers. In my opinion a training period of purely morphological work is essential to every paleontologist, but there is no need for this to have a fossilizing effect on the student of fossils. If paleontology is to progress beyond the level of stamp collecting, we must consider fossils as living organisms. The museum and the library are excellent places to study paleontology, but so are the laboratory, the cliff, and the quarry --and so, it may be added, is the whole world of living nature.

It would be quite impossible for one man in one book to write a comprehensive account of the ecology of all the different fossil groups or all the different kinds of fossil assemblages. The literature is at the same time too vast, too scattered, and too inadequate. It is therefore my intention in this book to approach the subject by way of the methods which have been and can be used in its study. After the introductory Part 1, which deals with the necessary generalities, Parts 2 and 3 consist essentially of examples chosen to illustrate the various possible approaches. The examples have been taken from as wide a field as possible, but obviously they come from my own experience and reading. Inevitably my choice has been prejudiced by my special interests, so the British Mesozoic and Cenozoic and the phylum Brachiopoda may seem to be somewhat overrepresented, but these examples are meant as illustrations and nothing more.

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