First cycle
degree courses
Second cycle
degree courses
Single cycle
degree courses
School of Science
Course unit
SC10106427, A.A. 2019/20

Information concerning the students who enrolled in A.Y. 2018/19

Information on the course unit
Degree course First cycle degree in
SC1161, Degree course structure A.Y. 2008/09, A.Y. 2019/20
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Number of ECTS credits allocated 8.0
Type of assessment Mark
Course unit English denomination PALAEONTOLOGY
Website of the academic structure
Department of reference Department of Biology
Mandatory attendance
Language of instruction Italian
Single Course unit The Course unit can be attended under the option Single Course unit attendance
Optional Course unit The Course unit can be chosen as Optional Course unit

Teacher in charge ELIANA FORNACIARI GEO/01
Other lecturers LUCA CAPRARO GEO/01

ECTS: details
Type Scientific-Disciplinary Sector Credits allocated
Core courses GEO/01 Palaeontology and Palaeoecology 8.0

Course unit organization
Period Second semester
Year 2nd Year
Teaching method frontal

Type of hours Credits Teaching
Hours of
Individual study
Group didactic activities 0.0 66 0.0 No turn
Laboratory 2.25 36 20.25 2
Lecture 5.75 46 97.75 No turn

Start of activities 02/03/2020
End of activities 12/06/2020
Show course schedule 2019/20 Reg.2008 course timetable

Prerequisites: None. However, the student will benefit from background knowledge of Chemistry, Mineralogy and Zoology.
Target skills and knowledge: The course is intended to provide an overview on principles and paradigms of Paleontology including conceptual basis for the successive geological courses. The thrust of the course will be on the relationship between the fossil record and Evolution and the importance of fossils in time telling and paleoenvironmental reconstructions.
The student will gain basic notions on:
1) Significance of fossils and taphonomy
2) Geological time (“Deep time”)
3) Taxonomy
4) Relationship between fossils and evolution
5) Micro-macroevolution in paleontology
6) Extinctions
7) Biostratigraphy
8) Paleoecology
9) History of Life as documented by the fossil record
10) Systematics of the main marine invertebrate fossil taxa

At the end of the course, the student should have gained
1) A proper scientific terminology
2) The ability to face critically scientific topics
3) The ability to identify and classify fossil specimens of marine invertebrates.
Examination methods: The examination is structured in two parts. 1) A practical test aimed at evaluating the ability of student to identify fossil specimens of marine invertebrates at the taxonomic level of subclass/order 2) An oral examination, with open-ended questions, aimed at evaluating the scientific skills the accuracy of the terminology adopted, and the ability of logical and critical reasoning gained during the course.
Assessment criteria: Evaluation criteria will be:
1) Ability in discussing the significance of concepts and paradigms of Paleontology in Natural History
2) Communication skills and ability to master topics of Paleontology
3) ability in linking concepts and paradigms of Paleontology to related disciplines
4) Accuracy in using scientific terminology
5) Ability to apply taxonomic keys in identifying the fossil specimens.
Course unit contents: Contents:
1) Introduction to Paleontology: What is a Fossil?; History and applications of Paleontology (4 h)
2) The deep Time: From Steno to Lyell the Relative Geological Time Scale; from James Ussher to Clair C. Patterson the “Absolute” Time (4h)
3) How do fossils form?: Biostratinomy and taphonomy (2)
4) Systematics: introduction to classification and taxonomy and competing systematic philosophies. Species and speciation: what is a species and how does a paleontologist identify them (2h)
5) Evolution: fossils and evolution from Lamarck to Darwin; the Neo-Darwian Synthesis and Punctuated Equilibrium: patterns from the fossil record (4h)
6) Macroevolution and the legacy of the fossil record: background extinctions and mass extinctions (6h)
7) Biostratigraphy: fossils in the space and time (2h)
8) Paleoecology of marine realm: classification of marine environments; trophic strategy and mode of life of organisms; environmental and limiting factors; introduction to classification of marine environments (5h)
9) History of Life: Precambrian, the “hidden life”: from the origin of life to multicellularity; Precambrian, the “strange life”: the ediacarian biota (2h); the cambrian explosion (2h); Paleozoic: from the ordovician radiation to the age of fishes (Devonian) (2h); Paleozoic: from the origin and early radiation of terrestrial vertebrates (Carboniferous) to the mother of mass extinctions (End-Permian mass extinction) (2h).
10) Basic notions of the systematics , biology, paleoecology, functional morphology and stratigraphy of fossils belonging to the main marine invertebrate taxa: Sponges, Cnidarians (Corals), Brachiopods, Molluscs (Scaphopods, Bivalves, Gastropods, Cephalopods), Echinoderms (Crinoids and Echinoids), Arthropods (Trilobites), Hemichordates (Graptolites) (7h of lectures+ 24 of laboratory)
11) Introduction to the field trip/s (2)
Planned learning activities and teaching methods: The course is structured in lectures (46h), laboratory (24h) and field trip/s (12h).
The topic of lectures are presented in ppt. A critical discussion is promoted by questions. In the laboratories, the taxonomic keys provided during the lectures are applied to identify fossils belonging to the main marine invertebrate taxa. First, the teacher indicates how to identify and describe the various fossils, then the students, in small groups, observe, describe, and discuss among them and with the teachers about specimens of fossils. During the field trip/s visits to Museums and quarries are planned. The presence in the Museums of guides that interact with the students encourage questions and discussions. During the visits to quarries after a brief geological/paleontological introduction of the areas the students “hunt” fossils and try to identify them using the identification techniques learned during the labs and lectures
Additional notes about suggested reading: Slides and PDF of lectures, labs, field trips and papers for additional reading (optional) are available to students in e-learning platform (
Textbooks (and optional supplementary readings)
  • Prothero DR, Bringing Fossil to Life: An Introduction to Paleobiology. --: McGraw-Hill, 2004. Cerca nel catalogo
  • Benton, Michael J.; Harper, David A. T., Introduction to paleobiology and the fossil recordMichael J. Benton, David A.T. Harper. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, --. Cerca nel catalogo
  • Raffi, Sergio; Serpagli, Enrico, Introduzione alla paleontologiaSergio Raffi, Enrico Serpagli. Torino: UTET, --. Cerca nel catalogo
  • Lieberman, Bruce S.; Kaesler, Roger L., Prehistoric lifeevolution and the fossil recordBruce S. Lieberman, Roger Kaesler. Chicester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Cerca nel catalogo

Innovative teaching methods: Teaching and learning strategies
  • Lecturing
  • Laboratory
  • Case study
  • Questioning
  • Use of online videos
  • Loading of files and pages (web pages, Moodle, ...)

Innovative teaching methods: Software or applications used
  • Moodle (files, quizzes, workshops, ...)

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