Dinosaurs and Paleontology

A prominent part of Earth's history is buried with the fossils of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. To unlock the mysteries of evolution, it's essential to excavate the organisms of the past.

On this page, you'll find information about paleontology as a discipline, what University of Alberta paleontologists are researching, and the effect their work has.

What Is Paleontology?

Paleontology is a discipline of science concerned with studying the fossils of animals and plants. Although the field is largely known for its focus on dinosaurs, paleontologists study many different fossils to better understand the evolution of organisms on Earth and their interactions with each other and their prehistoric environment.

Paleontologists who choose to study prehistoric creatures often specialize in either vertebrate paleontology or invertebrate paleontology.

Vertebrate paleontology is the study of fossils of extinct animals (including dinosaurs, fish, lizards, snakes, birds, and more) with the intention of uncovering how these creatures lived, behaved, and reproduced. Fossil vertebrates are classified as such when they possess vertebrae or a notochord (i.e. a spine made of bone or cartilage that supports the creature's body).

Invertebrate paleontology (also referred to as invertebrate paleobiology or paleozoology) is the study of fossil invertebrates, which are creatures that do not possess spinal chords. Commonly studied invertebrates include trilobites, snails, clams, oysters, squids, other mollusks, and more.

Other common subfields of paleontology include:

  • Ichnology (the study of fossilized footprints, tracks, and trails)
  • Micropaleontology (the study of microscopic fossils)
  • Paleobotany (the study of fossil plants, algae, and fungi)
  • Paleoecology (the study of primitive or prehistoric ecology and climate)
  • Palynology (the study of pollen and spores found in rock, plants, and microorganisms)

Paleontology news & research

Read some of the exciting news stories about UAlberta paleontologists whose work is helping excavate Earth's evolutionary mysteries.

Read paleo news

Fingers to the bone: Dinosaur fossil fingers reveal new species

A collection of three fossilized bird-like dinosaurs has resulted in the discovery of an entirely new species by a team led by a University of Alberta alumnus.

Check out even more of our exciting dinosaur videos!

Explore More Dinosaur Videos

he fossilized lower jawbone of a Daspletosaurus horneri, one of the first baby tyrannosaurs ever discovered. Estimates based on this 75-million-year-old fossil suggest the dinosaur embryo measured about 71 centimetres long. Photo credit Greg Funston

Scientists unearth first baby tyrannosaur fossils ever found

University of Alberta PhD student part of research that sheds new light on how the dinosaurs grew from tiny to titanic size.

Photos taken on the first year field school for geology in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in Crowsnest Region, close to Coleman, British Columbia, led by Professors Stephen Johnston and Murray Gingras.

Newly discovered fossil named after U of A paleontologist

Former grad student discovers new trace fossil and names it in honour of former supervisor Murray Gingras.

Professor Q & A

Learn more about a few of our paleontology professors, their research interests, and more by exploring the Q & A articles below.

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Info for Students