Registered students should go to http://www.geo.arizona.edu/~rees/geos308/syllabus2.htm
(a password protected site that contains all the active links)

Instructor: Allister Rees
Gould-Simpson Room 334

Tel: 626-5275 
Office hours: Tu 3-4, Th 2-3

Preceptors: Guleed Ali, Nick Breckenfeld, Kyle Johnson, Callan Russ

Some more-or-less practical reasons:
(1) Fossils reveal when, and how fast, organisms appeared, evolved, and became extinct;
(2) Fossils are reliable indicators of the age of sedimentary rocks; and
(3) Fossils are excellent indicators of past life and environments. 
Non-practical reasons include the pleasure of discovery, reconstructing the life of the past, and being able to critique the entire Jurassic Park series.
The lecture part of this course will cover the principles of paleontology, the evolution of life in the oceans and on land, the use of fossils in dating and in deciphering ancient environments, and the major features of evolution and extinction as seen in the fossil record.
The laboratory part of the course will illustrate the concepts discussed in lecture, introduce you to important groups of fossils, provide field experience in collecting and analyzing fossils, and develop research, writing and presentation skills.
There is a required field trip in this course.  It is an all day trip, departing from the Gould-Simpson Building on Saturday Nov. 1 at 8:00 AM, returning at about 5:00 PM.  The trip is to examine a rock exposure between Bisbee and Douglas in order to map the distribution of environments in a Cretaceous reef.  Mark this date on your calendar now!  This trip will form the basis of a lab report that will constitute a big part of your lab grade.

There is no required text for this course. Previous students have found the available texts pretty unhelpful and/or too expensive.  Instead, I will make class notes, lab handouts and assigned readings available on the web. So, you will need access to the web and a printer for this course. Note that all lectures will use Powerpoint - I will provide a link to the file in advance of each lecture.

Optional texts: You may find used copies of paleontology texts around and they can be pretty useful.  Here are ten pretty good ones (I have copies of those marked * - all the more reason to come for office hours!):

*Benton, M.J. and Harper, D.A.T., 1997.  Basic Palaeontology. Longman.

 Boardman, R.S., Cheetham, A.H., and Rowell, A.J., eds., 1987. Fossil Invertebrates.  Blackwell.  Excruciating detail.

 Clarkson, E.N.K., 1986.  Invertebrate Paleontology and Evolution, 2nd ed.  Allen & Unwin.  Another classic textbook from the U.K.

*Cowen, R., 2005.  History of Life, 3rd ed.  Blackwell.  Breezy, informal, and terrible limericks.

 Levin, H. J., 1999.  Ancient Invertebrates and Their Living Relatives.  Prentice Hall. Low level.

*McKerrow, W.S., ed., 1978. The Ecology of Fossils. It may be old but it's unique - and has great community reconstructions.

*Milsom, C. and Rigby, S., 2004.  Fossils at a Glance.  Blackwell.  Short and to the point; mostly morphology of the major groups.

*Prothero, D.R., 2004.  Bringing Fossils to Life.  An Introduction to Paleontology.  WCB McGraw-Hill.   There’s an earlier (1998) edition too.

*Sheldon, P., Palmer, D. and Spicer, R.A. 2001. Fossils and the History of Life. Basic overview.

*Skelton, P.W., Spicer, R.A. & Rees, P.M., 1997. Evolving Life and the Earth. Open University Press. A "holistic approach"  that emphasizes   feedbacks between Life and Earth through time. Not wanting to sing my own praises... but it's not too shabby.

I'll be using some of the material from these books in the lectures, so don't worry if you can't get hold of them. If something really grabs your attention and you want to know more, then come during office hours and browse/borrow one of the books.

Lectures are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11AM, in PAS 220. Labs are on Wednesdays (3PM) and Thursdays (4PM), in Gould-Simpson 203; you must print your lab handout in advance of the lab - remember to bring it with you.

Lecture topic Lab topic for week Reading
Introductions, course outline no labs this week This syllabus
My travels with fossils
Diversity of life Diversity of life Reading #1
Taxonomy and systematics Reading #2a
Extraordinary fossil preservation Taxonomy and systematics Reading #2b 
Preservation and taphonomy Reading #3
Earth and life through time Taphonomy and traces Reading #4
Precambrian life  Term paper deadline 1 Reading #5
The Cambrian explosion Mollusks Reading #6
Marine diversity Reading #7
FIRST EXAM Brachiopods
Terrestrial diversity - plants Reading #8
Vegetation and climates  Term paper deadline 2 Echinoderms and arthropods
Terrestrial diversity - vertebrates Reading #9
Dinosaurs Vertebrate anatomy Reading #10
Biostratigraphy and correlation Fossils in the field (3 hour lab) Reading #11
Microfossils  Term paper deadline 3
Paleobiogeography and paleoclimate Corals and reefs Reading #12
Macroevolution + "The future is wild" (dvd) Field trip materials and lab review
Evolution, creationism, ID 
Veterans Day - no lecture Lab exam Reading #13
Extinctions 1
Extinctions 2 Term Paper Oral Presentations Reading #14
Conservation paleobiology
Paleozoic  Field trip report deadline no labs this week  
Thanksgiving holiday - no class
Mesozoic  Term paper deadline 4 - final version Web-based lab Reading #15
Cenozoic Reading #16
What's next? Lessons from the past... no labs this week
FINAL EXAM   11AM in PAS 220


Assigned readings and exercises (available through the above links):

1.     Ausich, W.I. and Lanes, N.G., 1999.  Chapter 2.  The Organization of Life, pp. 19-32, in Life of the Past, 4th         edition.  Prentice-Hall.

2a.   Gould, S.J., 1991. Bully for Brontosaurus, pp. 79-93, in Bully for Brontosaurus.  W.W. Norton. 

2b.   What did Tyrannosaurus rex taste like? An introduction to how life is related.    

3.     Brett, C.E., 1990. Destructive taphonomic processes and skeletal durability,  pp. 223-226, in Briggs, D.E. and         Crowther, P.R., eds.,  Palaeobiology: A Synthesis.  Blackwell.

4.     Web Geological Time Machine. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/help/timeform.html. Read the general info about         each era and period, and remember to click the "Ancient Life" buttons for each.
        Paleomap Project. http://www.scotese.com/earth.htm. View the paleomaps for each period.

5.     Milsom, C. and Rigby, S., 2004.  Chapter 15.  Precambrian Life, pp. 131-136, in Fossils at a Glance.  Blackwell.

6.     The Cambrian Explosion.  http://palaeo.gly.bris.ac.uk/Palaeofiles/Cambrian/Index.html

7.     Benton, M.J. and Harper, D.A.T., 1997.  The diversification of life: Onward and upward, pp. 292-295, in Basic         Palaeontology.  Longman.

8.     Spicer, R.A., 1997. Greening of the Land, pp. 72-90, in Evolving Life and the Earth. Open University Press.

9.     Erickson, G.M., Van Kirk, S.D., Su, J., Levenston, M.E., Caler, W.E. and Carter, D.R., 1996.  Bite-force         estimation for Tyrannosaurus rex from tooth-marked bones.  Nature  382: 706-708.

10.   Benton, M.J. and Harper, D.A.T., 1997.  Vertebrates, pp. 195-221, in Basic Palaeontology.  Longman.

11.   Prothero, D.R., 2004. Biostratigraphic sampling,  pp.175-179, and Quantitative biostratigraphy, pp. 181-182, in         Bringing Fossils to Life, 2nd ed., McGraw Hill.

12.   Schreiber, J.F., Jr. and Scott, R.W., 1987.  Lower Cretaceous coral-algal-rudist patch reefs in southeastern         Arizona, pp. 280-292 in Davis, G.H. and Vandendolder, E.M., eds., 1987.  Geologic Diversity of Arizona and its         Margins: Excursions to Choice Areas.  Arizona Bureau of Geology and Mineral Technology, Geological Survey         Branch, Special Paper 5.

13.   Skelton, P., 1997. Radiations and Extinctions, pp. 59-71, in Evolving Life and the Earth. Open University Press.

14.   Cowen, R., 2005.  Chapter 16.  The end of the dinosaurs, pp. 228-237, in The History of Life, 4th ed.  Blackwell. 

15.   Cowen, R., 2005.  Chapter 17.  Cenozoic mammals: origins, guilds, and trends, pp. 238-254, in The History of         Life, 4th ed.  Blackwell.

16.   Cowen, R., 2005.  Chapter 20.  Evolving toward Humans, pp. 286-293, in The History of Life, 4th ed.  Blackwell. 



The course grade is based on three 1 hour exams (each worth 100 points), one term paper (worth 130 points) and the lab grade (170 points).  Total points = 600.

The lab points break down as follows:  there are 10 regular labs at 10 points each. The lab exam is worth 35 points and the Cretaceous reef field trip report is worth 35 points; all for a total of 170 points.

A sample exam (pay attention to the style of the questions – the course gets re-arranged every year, so the content of the questions may change) is linked HERE.

Please note: I reserve the right to modify the syllabus and/or award extra credit opportunities during the semester.



Your term paper will focus on one of four "major themes" and must include a review and analysis of one "primary" article (see further details plus a list of themes and primary articles HERE). My goals are (1) to encourage you to dig deeper on a particular topic instead of simply summarizing an article, (2) to develop your term paper by finding other articles online, and (3) to discuss and review your progress with me during office hours throughout the semester.

Your term paper is worth 130 points of your total 600 point course grade (so it's important you do a good job).

Term paper deadlines and points:

(Note - everything must be typed and you should check spelling and grammar before submission)

Sept 18 - provide your choice of theme and primary article (5 points)

Oct 7 - provide outline plus preliminary ~ 1 page summary of primary article (10 points)

Oct 23 - provide extended preliminary ~ 2 to 3 page version that includes additional articles and findings (15 points)

Nov 19 or Nov 20 - provide oral presentation of term paper to your lab section (30 points). This is limited to 5 powerpoint slides and seven minutes. Tips for presentations HERE

Dec 2 - provide final version of term paper, using feedback comments from oral presentation if necessary - your term paper must not exceed ten double-spaced pages in length, it must be typed and include complete references both in the text and in a formatted list at the end (70 points)

Again, see further details plus a list of themes and primary articles HERE


Sept. 18 Term paper deadline 1
Sept. 30 First exam
Oct. 7 Term paper deadline 2
Oct. 23 Term paper deadline 3
Oct. 30 Second exam
Nov. 1 Field trip to Cretaceous reef
Nov. 12 or 13 Lab exam
Nov. 19 or 20 Term paper oral presentation
Nov. 25 Field trip report deadline
Dec. 2 Term paper final version deadline
Dec. 16 Final exam


I expect you to be aware of and adhere to the University of Arizona's Code of Academic Integrity.  If you do not have a copy of this code, you may pick one up in the Dean's Office or consult it HERE.  Among other things, this means that you may not represent someone else's work as your own.  Cheating, copying and/or paraphrasing from the work of others are violations of the Code. 

You are responsible for all material covered in class.  This includes any announcements of changes in the class schedule or class requirements.  I usually make such announcements at the beginning of lecture, so arriving 5 minutes late may be too late.

Late assignments are assessed a penalty of -10% per day or any part of a dayMake-ups of missed exams are not available unless you inform me ahead of time (in person, e-mail or phone) and have a mighty good, well-documented reason. 

If you require accommodation in testing or note-taking, you must notify me and the Disability Resource Center must have also notified me directly.



The Geologic Time Scale

The most recent update of the geologic time scale is available in elaborate detail at http://stratigraphy.org/chus.pdf. Be thankful that you don’t need to memorize it.  But you are required to memorize all of the following version:

Phanerozoic Cenozoic Quaternary Holocene
    Tertiary Pliocene
---------------------------------------------------Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary 65 Ma---------------------------------------------------
  Mesozoic Cretaceous  
----------------------------------------------------Permian/Triassic boundary 251 Ma----------------------------------------------------
  Paleozoic Permian  
    Carboniferous Pennsylvanian
------------------------------------------------Precambrian/Cambrian boundary 542 Ma------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------ Archean/Proterozoic boundary 2.5 Ga (= 2500 Ma)------------------------------------------
Archean*   [* The Archean + Proterozoic are informally known as "Precambrian"]
-----------------------------------------Origin of the Earth, approx. 4.5 billion years (4.5 Ga)-----------------------------------------
In addition, clicking on the blue links above will take you to the "Web Geological Time Machine" at the Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley. This site contains a vast array of resources and information that are guaranteed to enhance your knowledge and enjoyment from this course and you should be sure to visit it (http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/exhibit/geology.html). As well as information on geologic eons and eras (highlighted above), you can delve deeper to look at periods and even epochs. The time scale ages they use are a little out of date - but don't let that put you off!