Fossils: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short by Keith Thomson

By Keith Thomson

Fossils were very important to our realizing of the formation of the earth and the origins of lifestyles. despite the fact that, their influence has now not been constrained to debates approximately geology and evolution: makes an attempt to provide an explanation for their lifestyles has shaken faith at its very roots, and so they have remained an issue of ceaseless fascination for individuals of every age and backgrounds. during this readable and wide-ranging e-book, Keith Thomson offers a remarkably all-encompassing clarification of fossils as a phenomenon. How did Darwin use fossils to help his conception of evolution? What are "living fossils"? What fossils do we depart in the back of for destiny generations to check? past the clinical features, Thomson highlights the influence of fossils on philosophy and mythology, our suggestion of time, and today's pop culture. From the black marketplace to the Piltdown guy, and from mythological dragons to dwelling dinosaurs, fossils carry an everlasting position within the renowned mind's eye.

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A cultural phenomenon 25 Chapter 3 Fossils in the popular imagination Throughout the 18th century, all educated people in Europe and the Americas were familiar with a broad range of fossils and many had a ‘cabinet’ of specimens. But it was still likely that their fossils would be classified as ‘formed stones’, a category that was neutral with respect to origins. Once it had been generally accepted that fossils were organic remains, however, they assumed an important role in popular culture as well as sober philosophical scholarship.

Under such conditions, life could have survived only in places like hot springs and deep-sea volcanic vents. Whether or not the cold extended to a full ‘snowball earth’, as some hypothesize, or just a ‘slushball’, the effects on the fledgling faunas and floras must have been significant. Warming after the freeze was probably driven by plate tectonic upheavals, producing earthquakes and volcanoes that released large volumes of greenhouse gases. This resulted in wholesale weathering of rocks that released a huge amount of calcium carbonate and phosphate into the oceans – calcium with which to make skeletons.

The history of life on earth was revealed as ‘progressive’, at least in the sense that it started from a beginning in simple (so-called ‘lower’) organisms and proceeded via ever-increasing diversity and complexity. Perhaps the most telling aspect of this new fossil record was that the overwhelming majority of its denizens were not to be found living on earth today. The deeper one went into the rock strata, the more extinct forms emerged – not just extinct species but whole major groups (trilobites, for example).

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