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Fwd: The (long) future of paleontology
There are WAY more fossils varieties to be found than have already
been found. Every year new varieties are discovered. Methods of
searching continue to be refined (ala new technology as well as
reapplication of old tech and just plain leg work). Also, the more we
learn, the more we know what to look for. It works that way for the
individual collector as it does for the science as a whole. To coin a
phrase, we have only scratched the surface of the planet.
As industry becomes more paleontology friendly, (one would hope) we
will get access to things like coal deposits and industrial
excavations with increased regularity. Hopefully, we will eventually
get the same legislative leeway that archaeology gets. Someone finds
an arrowhead and all work stops. Wouldn't it be great if we got to
remove that new Devonian amphibian before the coal block was burned to
heat someone's home.
As the obvious areas have been searched for about for fossils
(badlands), collectors (like myself) are looking in grassed over areas
in virgin territory. I suspect that at least 99.9 percent of the
planets surface has not been searched paleontologically. Granted that
there are so many fossils varieties to be found. Most of the
diversity that was there, has not been preserved and we only find the
hard parts generally and then only serendipitously do we find a fossil
and extract the information encoded within.
Paleontology is a new science and worthy of preservation in and of
itself. Static corpus will hardly be the status quo. Just look at
the discoveries in the last decade. Besides, accumulating more of the
same fossil leads to new interpretation by a little known science
called statistics where a hardly used variable called "n" is always
more reliable if larger than 1.
Frank (Rooster) Bliss
On Jan 12, 2006, at 12:13 PM, W. F. Zimmerman, wfzimmerman.com wrote:
There were some interesting discussions on this list recently about
number of genera discovered in each year and the most abundant fossil
The conversation prompted me to wonder: what is the (long) future for
paleontology? In some ways, it's a zero-sum game with an achievable
point. After all, all the fossils that ever will be discovered
exist. Will paleontology eventually become like classic literature,
scholars argue over the interpretation of an almost static corpus of
How much of the ultimate "catch" of fossils have we already found?
50? What will (terran) paleontologists be finding 50 years from now?
1000? What new (earth-penetrating?) techniques will transform the