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Lecture 8

ANP202 Lecture 8

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Michigan State University
ANP 201

Lecture 8: Fossils & Their Place in Time & Nature Big Questions 1. What are fossils? -Fossil: the remains of an organism or of its presence preserved in rock 2. What do fossils tell us about the past? 3. What methods do anthropologists and other scientists use to study fossils? Conditions for Fossilization *Suitable remains *A quick burial *Favorable medium that includes the proper minerals -Favorable medium is stable, non-acidic, anaerobic -Proper minerals are iron, silica, etc. -Favorable media is sedimentary rock and volcanic ash *Taphonomy: the study of the deposition of organisms and the environmental conditions affecting their preservation *Fossilization requires an anoxic environment, where decomposition is limited. Other factors also affect preservation -E.g. groundwater, soil acidity, geologic activity 1. Death of animal/plant 2. Organic decomposition 3. Burial in sediments 4. Organics are replaced by inorganic minerals 5. Further burial 6. Erosion and exposure Biases in Fossil Evidence *Not all species are represented in fossils. Recognition of possible biases is critical in interpreting the fossil record -Species that live outside favorable conditions do not preserve -Larger organisms preserve more often than smaller organisms -Within individual fossils, large and/or hard bones preserve more often than small bones The Fayum Depression, Egypt *Produce fossil evidence of primate evolution that ends at 31mya *This may not mean primates went extinct *Environmental change may have violated necessary conditions for fossilization Cenozoic Era- Age of Mammals (7epochs) Holocene 15kya Pleistocene 1.6mya-15kya Genus homo Pliocene 23.7mya-1.6mya Earliest hominids Miocene 23.7mya-5.3mya Apes Oligocene 36.6mya-23.7mya Monkeys Eocene 57.8mya-36.6mya Prosimians Paleocene 65mya-57.8mya Earliest primates Dating Methods- 2 types *Relative dating -Estimate relative ages (older/younger than…) -Many methods are based on stratigraphy and the law of superposition *Absolute (chronometric) dating -Assign numeric age (e.g. 65mya) -Many are based on radioactive dec
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