Tag Archives: Fossils

3D fossil scans available online

Hello dear Kurtenians!

Here are some great news that you may already be aware of, but here it is again:
A database of stereographic anaglyphs as well as full, printable, 3D models of over 20000 fossils observable in the British Isles has been made available online through a cooperation between the British Geological Survey, several musea in the UK and the Joint Information System Commitee.


Just fantastic!


Fossilization causes organisms to appear erroneously primitive by distorting evolutionary trees

Rob Sansom gave a talk about this subject in last years SVPCA meeting, and we mentioned it in the BKK meeting afterwards. It was then ongoing, this is the results:

Fossilization causes organisms to appear erroneously primitive by distorting evolutionary trees

Robert S. Sansom & Matthew A. Wills

Fossils are vital for calibrating rates of molecular and morphological change through geological time, and are the only direct source of data documenting macroevolutionary transitions. Many evolutionary studies therefore require the robust phylogenetic placement of extinct organisms. Here, we demonstrate that the inevitable bias of the fossil record to preserve just hard, skeletal morphology systemically distorts phylogeny. Removal of soft part characters from 78 modern vertebrate and invertebrate morphological datasets resulted in significant changes to phylogenetic signal; it caused individual taxa to drift from their original position, predominately downward toward the root of their respective trees. This last bias could systematically inflate evolutionary rates inferred from molecular data because first fossil occurrences will not be recognised as such. Stem-ward slippage, whereby fundamental taphonomic biases cause fossils to be interpreted as erroneously primitive, is therefore a ubiquitous problem for all biologists attempting to infer macroevolutionary rates or sequences.

Scientific Reports 3, 2545  doi:10.1038/srep02545





Biology Letters Special Feature – Models in Palaeontology


Models in Palaeontology

Biology Letters Special Feature 2012
Organized by Dr Paul Barrett and Dr Andrew Smith FRS


The history of life on this planet is gleaned from analyzing how fossils are
distributed through time and space. While these patterns are now rather
securely known, at least for well-studied parts of the world, their
interpretation remains far from simple. Fossils preserve only partial data
from which to reconstruct their biology, and the geological record is
incomplete and biased, so that taxonomic ranges and palaeocommunity
structure are imperfectly known. To better understand the often highly
complex deep-time processes that gave rise to the empirical fossil record,
palaeontologists have turned to modelling the past. This Special Feature
entitled Models in Palaeontology brings together a series of 11 papers that
showcase how modelling the past is being applied to advance our
understanding across a wide spectrum of current palaeontological endeavours.

Enjoy! 🙂


Derek D. Turner on “The Meaning of ‘Fossil’ and the Incompleteness of the Fossil Record”

Dear all,

Professor Derek D. Turner (Connecticut College)

will give a talk at the research seminar of the Helsinki Philosophy of Science Research Group on Monday 5 December on

“The Meaning of ‘Fossil’ and the Incompleteness of the Fossil Record”

Derek Turner is a philosopher of science who has specialized in evolutionary paleontology. He has studied philosophical questions on punctuated equilibrium, species selection, species sorting, large-scale directional changes in evolutionary history, and fossils and fossil record.

In the talk, he will explore some of the ways in which new techniques (for example, the study of chemofossils, molecular clocks, and ancient DNA) are changing the meaning of “fossil,” and thereby also forcing us to rethink the incompleteness of the historical record.

Turner has published two books on paleontology:
– Making Prehistory (2007, Cambridge University Press), and
– Paleontology: A Philosophical Introduction (2011, Cambridge University Press)

And articles on different aspects of paleontology, such as
–  (2009) “How much can we know about the causes of evolutionary trends.” Biology & Philosophy 24: 341- 357
– (2011) “Gould’s replay revisited” Biology & Philosophy 26: 65-79

Time: Monday 5 December, 12-14

Place: Unioninkatu 40 (“Forest House”), room A217 (A-wing, second floor)



Jani Raerinne, PhD
Department of Philosophy, History, Culture, and Art Studies
Univ. Helsinki