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RE: The (long) future of paleontology

> A practical question: is there a known depth below
> ground where fossils
> could not be found?

Ask the Russians about this.  Their ultradeep Kola
Peninsula well found some odd forms of carbon below
six miles (I forget the exact depth).  On the other
hand, it may be a while before erosion reaches that
depth and exposes any remaining fossils.

There are also new forms of fossils being studied -
nannofossils are a prime example.    

We'll probably have something to do for at least the
rest of the century.

Glen Ledingham  

--- "W. F. Zimmerman, wfzimmerman.com"
<wfz@wfzimmerman.com> wrote:

 I assume that fossils could be
> found effectively
> anywhere on, or beneath, the earth (or ocean
> surface) where a) the proper
> sort of geologic processes preserved them and
> b)other geologic processes
> moved them.  
> In principle, this "how many of the fossils have we
> found?" question seems
> like the sort of problem that is amenable to GIS -
> one would create a model
> parameterizing various types of geological
> formations in terms of their
> estimated likelihood for holding fossils (based on
> past experience) and then
> use standard GIS tools to measure the area of the
> unsearched formations.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-dinosaur@usc.edu
> [mailto:owner-dinosaur@usc.edu] On Behalf Of
> Sent: Thursday, January 12, 2006 3:55 PM
> To: wfz@wfzimmerman.com
> Cc: dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject: Re: The (long) future of paleontology
> > 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 
> > alreadyexist.  Will paleontology eventually become
> like classic 
> > literature, where scholars argue over the
> interpretation of an almost 
> > static corpus of data?
> Nice thought provoking question (I think it's
> interesting, anyway, for what
> that's worth).  For my part, I would toss in the
> caveat that it is only the
> field collection portion of paleontology that is
> technically zero-sum
> (though, realistically, I agree that such a
> situation will probably never
> even be approached).  A single element is a single
> data point only for some
> specific analyses.  For most studies, a single
> element from a single
> organism still yields a vast range of information,
> and having many
> individuals adds yet more possibilities (beyond just
> having more elements).
> As in any other
>  scientific discipline, the data pool is effectively
> infinite, even if the
> available material is not.  By way of example, I
> would point to the vast
> array of research projects completed using museum
> specimens already known
> and examined.  In some cases, comparative analyses,
> functional analyses, etc
> are utilizing fossils that have been known and
> recognized for a long time.
> Old specimens regularly produce new information. 
> Such information is truly
> novel, not just an interpretation of static data
> (since the data extracted
> and the analyses can both be unique).
> Of course, as I already suggested, it seems unlikely
> that even a majority of
> the possible specimens will ever be discovered.  And
> with regards to what
> sorts of processes/technologies will make more
> fossils available in the
> future, one powerful force will be the same one that
> has also destroyed or
> covered countless sites: human population growth and
> expansion.  While many
> valuable sites have been tragically destroyed by hu
> man actions, more will
> also be made accessible by our continued
> construction (road cuts, canal
> dredging, mining etc).
> Cheers,
> --Mike Habib
> ib