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

Helicopter Ride for a Giant Dinosaur Skull

University of Alberta dinosaur helicopter lift

Join Scott Persons and Clive Coy from the UAlberta Paleontology Department as their team excavates a horned dinosaur skull that's so massive it has to be lifted out by a helicopter.


Check out even more of our exciting dinosaur videos!

Explore More Dinosaur Videos

Professor Profiles

Eva Koppelhus laughing while on a paleontological dig, surrounded by students.

Assistant Professor Eva Koppelhus

Read about palynologist Eva Koppelhus as she joins UAlberta's world-leading paleontology team as the new assistant professor and curator of the paleobotanical collection.

Phil Currie Video Still

Professor Philip Currie

Find out how Philip Currie, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Dinosaur Paleobiology, went from digging out dinosaur toys from cereal boxes to digging up Tyrannosaurus Rex skulls in Dinosaur Provincial Park.

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