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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.

Holy Cuprolite!

Frank (Rooster) Bliss
MS Biostratigraphy
Weston, Wyoming

On Jan 12, 2006, at 12:13 PM, W. F. Zimmerman, wfzimmerman.com wrote:

There were some interesting discussions on this list recently about the
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 end
point. After all, all the fossils that ever will be discovered already
exist. Will paleontology eventually become like classic literature, where
scholars argue over the interpretation of an almost static corpus of data?

How much of the ultimate "catch" of fossils have we already found? 1%? 5%?
50? What will (terran) paleontologists be finding 50 years from now? 100?
1000? What new (earth-penetrating?) techniques will transform the field?