First cycle
degree courses
Second cycle
degree courses
Single cycle
degree courses
School of Science
Course unit
SCO2045606, 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
SC1162, Degree course structure A.Y. 2008/09, A.Y. 2019/20
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Number of ECTS credits allocated 12.0
Type of assessment Mark
Course unit English denomination PALAEONTOLOGY
Department of reference Department of Geosciences
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 STEFANO MONARI GEO/01
Other lecturers ELIANA FORNACIARI GEO/01

ECTS: details
Type Scientific-Disciplinary Sector Credits allocated
Core courses GEO/01 Palaeontology and Palaeoecology 12.0

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

Type of hours Credits Teaching
Hours of
Individual study
Group didactic activities 0.67 10 6.75 2
Practice 0.5 6 6.5 6
Laboratory 2.83 45 25.75 2
Lecture 8.0 64 136.0 No turn

Start of activities 30/09/2019
End of activities 18/01/2020
Show course schedule 2019/20 Reg.2008 course timetable

Prerequisites: Only the normal knowledge acquired during scientific courses of second grade secondary school is required.
Target skills and knowledge: On the completion of the course the student will:
- have knowledge of the major groups of fossilizing invertebrates;
- be able to identify fossils from hand samples using diagnostic morphological characters and classify them according to the principles of biological systematics;
- be able to infer palaeoecological information from a fossil sample on the base of its systematic position, the morphofunctional interpretation of characters and the recognition of the taphonomic processes involved;
- be able to utilise palaeoecological data to interpret past sedimentary environments;
- have knowledge of the theoretical aspects and basic analytical methods in palaeontology and of the meaning of fossils in palaeoecological, evolutionary, stratigraphic and palaeobiogeographical context;
- be able to utilise the proper scientific terminology used in palaeontology.
Examination methods: Oral exam is divided in two parts.
The first part consists of the examination of a fossil specimen from those studied in the labs. In particular, the candidate must:
- identify the fossil on the base of its morphological characters and recognize its taxonomic position;
- illustrate the general features of the taxon, including evolutionary traits, palaeoecological and stratigraphic significance, and discuss its morphofunctional adaptations;
- recognize the taphonomic processes and discuss their palaeoenvironmental implications.
The second part of the oral exam deals with one or more general topics including process of fossilisation, evolutionary palaeontology, palaeoecology, palaeobiogeography and use of fossils in stratigraphy.
Assessment criteria: The oral exam aims to verify the degree of:
- ability to classify fossil specimens using morphological characters;
- knowledge of major groups of fossilizing invertebrates;
- ability to utilise palaeontological data to interpret ancient sedimentary environment;
- understanding of the meaning of fossils in the palaeoecological, evolutionary, stratigraphic and palaeobiogeographical context;
- knowledge of the principles of palaeontology;
- knowledge and proper use of palaeontological terminology.
Course unit contents: Introduction: course structure, historical framework of palaeontology, what is a fossil, relationship between palaeontology, geology and biology. Taphonomy: original composition of living organisms, biostratinomy, fossilization of soft and hard parts. Palaeontology and evolution: fossils as evidence of evolution, evolutionary theories. Microevolution: from genotype/phenotype to speciation. Macroevolution: origin of major clades, adaptive radiations, convergent evolution, evolutionary trends, extinctions. Palaeoecology: ecology and palaeoecology, marine palaeoecology, zonations in marine environments, anoxic environments. Autoecology: biotic and abiotic factors. Synecology: communities and ecosystems, interspecific interactions, ecosystems structure, living and fossil associations, coevolution. Palaeoecological analysis with examples. Palaeoichnology: trace fossils formation, parataxonomy and classification of trace fossils, bioturbation. Stratigraphic palaeontology: evolution, palaeontology and stratigraphy, evolutionary rates and geologic time. Palaeobiogeography: tempo and mode in the diffusion of organisms, dispersal and vicariance, biogeographic and palaeobiogeographic units, palaeobiogeographic reconstruction with examples. Systematic palaeontology: principles and methods of classification of living organisms, homology and analogy, monophyletic and polyphyletic groups. Taxonomy, palaeoecology, palaeobiogeography, and stratigraphic relevance of major invertebrate groups. Introduction to micropalaeontology.
Planned learning activities and teaching methods: Contents are mainly delivered via lectures. Practicals involve examination of palaeontological material and are carried out by students in groups. Two one-day field excursions are carried out during the course.
Additional notes about suggested reading: Lectures are delivered with the help of slide presentations. Slides are provided to the students at the beginning of the course. Additions and updates are distributed during the course. The material is available on Moodle e-learning platform.
Textbooks (and optional supplementary readings)
  • RAFFI S. & SERPAGLI E., Introduzione alla Paleontologia. Torino: UTET, 2003. Cerca nel catalogo
  • ALLASINAZ A., Invertebrati fossili. Torino: UTET, 1999. Cerca nel catalogo
  • CLARKSON E.N.K., Invertebrate Palaeontology and Evolution. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1998. Cerca nel catalogo
  • BOARDMAN R., CHEETAM A.H. & ROWELL A.J., Fossil Invertebrates. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1987. Cerca nel catalogo
  • BENTON M.J. & HARPER D.A.T., Introduction to paleobiology and the fossil record. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Cerca nel catalogo
  • COCKELL C., (ed.), An introduction to the Earth-Life System. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Cerca nel catalogo

Innovative teaching methods: Teaching and learning strategies
  • Lecturing
  • Laboratory
  • Case study
  • Working in group
  • Use of online videos

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

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Life Below Water Life on Land