What Does a Paleontologist Do?

Paleontology is the scientific study of fossils of plants, animals and microbes. A scientist who studies the history of life and various aspects of living organisms through the use of fossil remains is called paleontologist. There is information in every fossil that helps explain more about individual organisms and the environment in which they lived.

Vertebrate Palaeontology

Vertebrates are animals with spines. The paleontology of vertebrates, therefore, means the study of fossils belonging to animals with backbones. Vertebrate paleontologists have identified and assembled the extinct dinosaur skeletons, cats, turtles and other animals in order to explain how they lived and lead to book their evolutionary theory. Vertebrate paleontologists used fossil evidence to know that there was a group of flying reptiles called pterosaurs that used wings to fly. The skeletons grouped by paleontologists have shown this proof. The skeletons had hollow, light bones like those of modern birds.

Palaeontology of invertebrates

This category of science studies animals without backbones such as arthropods such as crabs, sponges, corals, worms, echinoderms and molluscs. These animals lack bones, so paleontologists look for exoskeletons and fossils of their shells. Invertebrate paleontologists can also trace the paths of these invertebrates along the ocean floor. The study of these invertebrates is crucial as it helps scientists to know the type of habitat they have occupied in the past. For example, the 200 million-year-old insects found in the deserts of Nevada, in the United States, suggest that water was once present in this area.


A paleobotanist is a scientist who studies plant fossils. These experts study the fossils of ancient plants found on rock surfaces. The study of ancient plants helps to understand the diversity and evolution of plants. It also helps environmentalists rebuild ancient environments.


A micropaleontologist studies fossils of microscopic organisms such as pollens, algae, crustaceans and protists. This scientist uses powerful electron microscopes to examine these microorganisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Contribution of paleontologists

The history of fossil use by humans has evolved over the years. During the first days, people used fossils as decorations. Currently fossils are an important tool used by paleontologists to study the history of ancient organisms. Paleontology has been enhanced by improved technology since most of this study requires machines as powerful as microscopes. Through the support of organizations such as the National Geographic Society, the use of simple and automated tools, paleontologists will surely make further important paleontological discoveries that will expand our knowledge of the world in the past and the evolution of life on our planet.


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