Micropaleontology (4) Biology and ecology of microfaunas and microfloras (e.g., foraminifera, coccolithophores, radiolaria, diatoms, dinoflagellates) and applications in biostratigraphy and paleoenvironmental reconstruction.
GEOSC 428 Micropaleontology (4)
Micropaleontology is the study of the fossilized remains of microscopic plants and animals, most of which are single-celled and belong to the Protista. Although nearly invisible, the organisms at the base of the food chain make up most of the biomass in oceans and lakes. Only a few kinds of microplankton and microbenthos groups have shells that readily fossilize, but these can be so abundant that in places they form mountains of pure fossil remains. The abyssal floor of the ocean is made up of layers of microfossil-rich "ooze" that slowly accumulates from microscopic shells settling to the seafloor. Changes in the abundance and types of microfossils in these layers provide a detailed record of the geological past, in response to climate change and biological evolution. In addition, each time a new species of micro-organism evolves, it quickly spreads throughout the oceans, forming a worldwide time marker in the fossil record. Such marker horizons allow geological events in different parts of the world to be related in a global earth history.
The course has four main objectives: (1) to provide a broad overview of the biology and ecology of living microplankton and microbenthos with a focus on foraminifera and radiolaria (predatory, non-vegetative protists), coccolithophores and diatoms (vegetative, photosynthesizing protists), and dinoflagellates (both predatory and photosynthesizing); (2) to learn about the evolutionary record of these groups; (3) to understand their applications in biostratigraphy and paleoenvironmental reconstruction; and (4) identification of microfossil groups in the light microscope and scanning electron microscope. Group projects will be a key element of laboratory sessions. Assessment will be based on mid-term and final exams, a term paper, and a laboratory exercises.
Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.