Chapter

The Growth of Theoretical Paleontology

David Sepkoski

in Rereading the Fossil Record

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780226748559
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226748580 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226748580.003.0003
The Growth of Theoretical Paleontology

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This chapter describes the growth and transformation of theoretical paleontology over the years. There has been recently a major transformation in paleontological approaches to evolutionary theory and the fossil record. This shift involved several distinct but related aspects. First, paleontologists began to actively assess the institutional status of their discipline—asking whether paleontology “belonged,” for example, with geology, or with biology, or rather whether it constituted an independent discipline on its own. Second, paleontologists began more and more to connect explicitly their work with the evolutionary agenda of the modern synthesis, and to publish in outlets that were read by biologists and geneticists. Third, and perhaps most significantly, paleontology became quantitative. Earlier quantitative methods (measurements and statistical analysis) were absent from the work of paleontology, resulting in synthetic questions about the fossil record of a quantitative rigor and sophistication not previously seen in paleontological literature.

Keywords: theoretical paleontology; fossil record; evolutionary theory; quantitative methods; statistical analysis

Chapter.  9288 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Palaeontology

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