Paleontology and Evolution

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Paleontology and evolution are two steps, but by no means the only steps, in trying to discover the wonders of life on earth. They help us get a better perspective not only on our place in the grand web of life, but that life is far more powerful than we are or ever could imagine it to be.

Both paleontology and evolution help us to understand each individual life of a species as a page in a book. In order to better understand the character of today's species, and get hints at where they're going, we can look at their ancestors. We get to see a dinosaur (for example), not as just a big skeleton, but can see the development of that dinosaur over time. Looking at a timeline of a species can help us glimpse eternity. The species doesn't entirely die out but is passed on in other forms.

As a random example, let's look at a Tyrannosaurus Rex. This was a monstrous creature with a regal bearing. It was probably second to only human beings in turns of being a killing machine. But the T Rex was a colossal 7.5 tons in weight and over 40 feet long. It would even make an elephant look like a mouse. What happened to this creature that captures our imaginations?

Through paleontology, we have discovered the T Rex evolved from smaller raptors known as Guanlong, Chinese for "crowned dragons". Paleontogists have painstakingly gone over every bit of Guanlong's remains to discover that the hips, distinctive T Rex teeth and fused nasal bones mean that they were the most likely ancestor of the mighty T Rex.

But keeping up such a massive body had its consequences. No one knows for sure what killed the dinosaurs off but some of their genes live on. Amazingly, T Rex genes have been found in chickens. That may be hard to believe until you've been chased across a barnyard by a cranky rooster.

We can also see how closely related all living things are. We can then understand that when something affects one species, it tends to affect us all. Wondering why the dinosaurs died out or the mega-beasts of the Ice Age can help us try to avoid having our own species and the species we care about not die out in a similar way.

The original theory of evolution had the creation of man as the "goal" of the evolutionary process, but this view has been heavily revised since Darwin's day. Now, we can see that life exists for the purpose of just to exist. And the variety and ingenuity of life is awe inspiring.

More about this author: Rena Sherwood

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