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Related to Paleoecology: paleobiogeography


The ecology of the geologic past.



a branch of paleontology studying the way of life and habitat of organisms of the geologic past, the relationship between the organisms and their environment (inorganic and organic), and the changes that occurred in organisms during the development of life on earth.

The founder of paleoecology was the Russian paleontologist V. O. Kovalevskii, who provided brilliant examples of evolutionary and paleoecological analysis of extinct terrestrial vertebrates. Valuable studies of fossil marine and brackish-water invertebrates were conducted by the Russian geologist N. I. Andrusov. Of major importance in the development of paleoecology was the work of the Belgian paleontologist L. Dollo and the Austrian scientist O. Abel. Dollo called his research ethological-paleonto-logical, and Abel proposed the term “paleobiology.” The latter name was subsequently replaced by the term “paleoecology.” The Russian geologists and paleontologists A. P. Karpinskii and N. N. Iakovlev contributed greatly to the development of paleoecology.

The principal method of reconstructing the life of ancient organisms is to study the structure of their skeletal remains (morphofunctional analysis). It is also possible to partially recreate the habitat of extinct organisms by using geological data and by studying all organisms inhabiting the body of water or land under investigation. Thus, the objects of study in paleoecology are remains of organisms (species, populations, and communities), traces left by the organisms (paleoichnology), other manifestations of life activity (molting), characteristics of burial (taphonomy), and the rocks that enclose the petrifactions. The study of the material composition, structure, and textural and geochemical characteristics of rocks makes possible the recreation of many features of the life and demise of ancient organisms. Hence, it is necessary to coordinate paleoecological and lithological research.

Since the 1930’s, joint paleoecological and lithological research has been conducted in the USSR. A method has been elaborated based on the comparative ecological analysis of complexes of benthic organisms in space and time and on principles of the distribution of the organisms within whole marine basins. Such analysis acquires special significance with the study of Paleozoic and earlier organisms, in which case the actualistic method can be used, but with great limitations (seeACTUALISM). The method is widely used in analyzing fossil burials (actuopaleontology, according to R. Richter and W. Schäfer). Since roughly 1950, works have appeared on the evolution of ancient communities. These works may foster study of the development of ecological relationships between groups of ancient organisms and between ancient organisms and the inorganic environment.

In re-creating the living conditions and way of life of organisms of the geologic past, paleoecology provides valuable information for other branches of paleontology and for geology. It helps in the correlation of beds of different facies and in the reconstruction of the paleographic conditions, the conditions of sediment accumulation, and the formation of a number of mineral resources.

The journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology has been published in Amsterdam since 1965. In the USSR, paleoecological research is conducted primarily at the Paleontological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the Institute of Paleobiology of the Academy of Sciences of the Georgian SSR.


Gekker, R. F. Vvedenie v paleoekologiiu. Moscow, 1957.
Ivanova, E. A. “O putiakh razvitiia paleoekologii v SSSR.” Paleontologi-cheskii zhurnal, 1959, no. 2.
Iakovlev, N. N. Organizm i sreda, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Schäfer, W. Aktuo-Paläontologie nach Studien in der Nordsee. Freiburg-Munich, 1962.
Ager, D. V. Principles of Paleoecology. New York, 1963.


References in periodicals archive ?
Two major fields of research, paleoecology (6) and the more recent field of paleotempestology (7) have benefited from work done at the LLFS.
Snakes from the Paleocene and Eocene of Patagonia (Argentina): paleoecology and coevolution with mammals.
Based on textural relationship paleoecology and restricted faunal assemblage this microfacies is interpreted to have been deposited in a shallow subtidal environment of the distal inner ramp setting.
Isotopic dietary reconstructions of Pliocene herbivores at Laetoli: Implications for early hominin paleoecology.
Scannella said: "Without considering changes in shape throughout ontogeny, we overestimate dinosaur diversity and hence produce an unrealistic view of the paleoecology of these animals.
Malone (geology, archaeology and paleoecology, Queen's University, Belfast) and her colleagues provide a meticulous report of all finds, with diagrams and photos, as well as the geology and environment of the area.
Mesozoic brachiopods of Mexico- A review and some comments on their paleobiogeographic affinities and paleoecology.
At Taung, where Australopithecus africanus was first discovered, a wealth of primate fossils is preserved that bear on the reconstruction of paleoecology at this Plio-Pleistocene sites.
They cover stable isotope chemistry and measurement, sources of variation in the stable isotope composition of plants, natural abundance isotopes as indicators of forest nitrogen status and soil carbon dynamics, soil nutrition isotope composition, isotopic studies of the biology of modern ad fossil vertebrates, isotopic tracing of migrant wildlife, the natural abundance of a nitrogen isotope in marine plankton ecosystems, marine chemoautotrophically based ecosystems, tracers in marine food webs, temporal and spatial variability in organic matter sources to freshwater ecosystems, watershed hydrology, anthropogenic inputs of nitrogen, models of ecosystem biochemistry, and isotope analysis in ecology and paleoecology.
Key words: spruce, refugia, Beringia, Yukon Territory, macrofossils, paleoecology
Dawson was a pioneer in the field of terrestrial paleoecology (Falcon-Lang and Calder 2005).