Year: 2013

Patterns in Palaeontology: Old shapes, new tricks — The study of fossil morphology

Patterns in Palaeontology
by Verity Bennett1 Introduction: The size and shape of an organism is the product of genetics and environment. It is the raw material on which the process of natural selection (survival of particular animals over others) acts, and so is of central interest in studies of the evolution of ancient forms of life for which DNA information is not available. Fossil morphology, or shape, is the basis of most palaeontological studies, be they describing new species or making deductions about the animal’s lifestyle. Phylogenetic studies, those that place species in groups depending on how closely they are related to each other, are based on the presence and absence of particular features. This works on the theory that the more closely related two animals are, the more features they are likely to h

Life as a Palaeontologist: Going solo and making a living out of working with fossils

Life as a Palaeontologist
by Leyla Seyfullah*1 Introduction: In an article on Palaeontology [online] last year, Sarah King explained how undertaking a PhD can help you to launch an academic career in palaeontology. Obtaining that PhD can be a frustrating yet ultimately rewarding experience, but it is only the beginning for many palaeontologists — and it is worth pointing out that a PhD isn't a prerequisite for certain jobs in palaeontology (for example, dealing fossils). Here, I hope to give you a sense of what might happen after the PhD, and how this could lead to a wide range of new challenges and take you down previously unimagined paths. You didn't think that getting a job in palaeontology would be straightforward, did you?! As a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) student, you are dedicated to working on your doct