paleontology

noun
pa·​le·​on·​tol·​o·​gy | \ˌpā-lē-ˌän-ˈtä-lə-jē, -ən-, especially British ˌpa-\

Definition of paleontology 

: a science dealing with the life of past geological periods as known from fossil remains To many Americans, and nearly all young ones, paleontology can be summed up in one word: dinosaurs.— Jerry A. Coyne

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Other Words from paleontology

paleontological \ ˌpā-​lē-​ˌän-​tə-​ˈlä-​ji-​kəl \ or less commonly paleontologic \ ˌpā-​lē-​ˌän-​tə-​ˈlä-​jik \ adjective
paleontologist \ ˌpā-​lē-​ˌän-​ˈtä-​lə-​jist , -​ən-​ \ noun

Did You Know?

Until the 1820s, hardly anyone even suspected that dinosaurs had ever existed. In the years since, paleontology has sought to discover the entire history of life on earth, from the era of single-celled organisms up into the human era. Paleontologists continue to make remarkable discoveries, such as that a huge meteorite that fell in the Gulf of Mexico wiped out the dinosaurs—all except the birds, the only surviving dinosaurs. "Radiometric dating" can reveal the age (often tens of millions of years) of a rock or fossil or a tiny grain of pollen by measuring how much its radioactive elements have disintegrated. The study of molecules of DNA, RNA, and proteins has also become important for dating. Paleontologists often consult with geologists searching for oil, gas, and coal deposits, since all these "fossil fuels" were formed from plant and animal remains.

Examples of paleontology in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The natural history museum houses some of Brazil’s most precious pieces of archeology, zoology, anthropology, and paleontology—roughly 20 million items in total. Lale Arikoglu, Condé Nast Traveler, "Brazil Mourns Loss of Rio de Janeiro's National Museum After Devastating Fire," 4 Sep. 2018 Not monetary wise, but in the wonderful satisfaction of contributing something the world of scientists and paleontology has never seen before. Fox News, "Adm. Mike Mullen on ex-intel officials keeping clearances; Mulvaney on potential storm clouds ahead for Trump economy," 19 Aug. 2018 While several other naturalists of the early 19th century also pursued a numerical approach to taxonomy, Bronn took it further than anyone else, and championed it as a new methodology for paleontology. David Sepkoski, The Atlantic, "19th-Century Paleontology Was at the Forefront of Big Data," 14 Feb. 2018 One of the first stops was Austria, home to a virtual paleontology lab run by Gerhard W. Weber, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Vienna. Nicholas St. Fleur, New York Times, "In Cave in Israel, Scientists Find Jawbone Fossil From Oldest Modern Human Out of Africa," 25 Jan. 2018 Dinosaur paleontology had just undergone a scientific revolution. Eva Botkin-kowacki, The Christian Science Monitor, "Rise of the 'Jurassic Park' generation," 11 June 2018 And although funds are scarce for all science in India, the plight of paleontology is particularly acute. Sanjay Kumar, Science | AAAS, "India’s paleontologists fight destruction of its fossil riches," 4 Apr. 2018 It was given the name Attenborites janeae, after English naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who was known for his science advocacy and support of paleontology. Doyle Rice, ajc, "Scientists discover fossil of ancient sea creature, name it after Obama," 21 June 2018 The [original] movie did an incredible service for paleontology and got everybody interested in dinosaurs. NBC News, "'Jurassic World': Paleontologist who inspired Alan Grant role talks real-life dino science," 20 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'paleontology.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of paleontology

1833, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for paleontology

French paléontologie, from palé- pale- + Greek onta existing things (from neuter plural of ont-, ōn, present participle of einai to be) + French -logie -logy — more at is

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Last Updated

16 Nov 2018

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The first known use of paleontology was in 1833

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More Definitions for paleontology

paleontology

noun

English Language Learners Definition of paleontology

: the science that deals with the fossils of animals and plants that lived very long ago especially in the time of dinosaurs

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