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Life and the Fossil Record


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 4
  • Tutor: Charlie Underwood
  • Assessment: four online tests (100%)

Module description

The course will introduce the main common and important groups of invertebrate fossils. Concepts covered within each fossil group will include evolution, extinction, palaeobiology and functional morphology and geological uses. In addition the course will cover basic palaeontological principles, in particular classification, fossil preservation and fossil behaviour (in the form of trace fossils).

Indicative module 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.