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Life and the Fossil Record


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Dr Charles Underwood
  • Assessment: four online tests (100%)

Module description

In this module we introduce the main groups of invertebrate fossils. For each fossil group we will study their evolution, extinction, palaeobiology and functional morphology and geological uses. In addition we will cover basic palaeontological principles, in particular classification, fossil preservation and fossil behaviour (in the form of trace fossils).

Indicative syllabus

  • Studying fossils; preservation and classification
  • Origin of life, microbes and protists
  • Precambrian life; aspects of micropalaeontology
  • Land plants
  • Sponges, corals and reefs
  • Molluscs
  • Echinoderms
  • Brachiopods and graptolites
  • Arthropods
  • A brief introduction to vertebrates: vertebrates as fossils and a selection of key evolutionary advances (endoskeleton, jaws, legs, eggs, feathers, mammal ear)
  • Trace fossils and fossils through time

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will have knowledge of:

  • the principles of classification of organisms
  • the principles of fossil preservation
  • morphology and palaeobiology of selected fossil invertebrate groups
  • the interpretation of behaviour and functional morphology of extinct organisms
  • the main geological applications of fossils.