Beginning in the 18th century, the concept of paleontology was established and was further developed in the 19th century. Paleontology is the study of prehistoric life, including organisms’ evolution and interactions with each other and the environment around them. It’s also the study of past fossil records of past geological periods and relationships between ancient and modern day species. Although it is a field of biology, it has also been associated with geology because of the attempt to learn about the Earth itself, not just its organisms. This field tries to explain causes rather than observing effects by conducting experiments. The use of paleontology was and still is an extremely important aspect in identifying organisms from the Paleozoic Era, a time period in which extinction and evolution collided with each other, helping to shape the biological world we know today.
The Paleozoic Era began about 542 million years ago and lasted for about 291 million years. It was divided into six parts known as the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian. The oldest subdivision of the Paleozoic Era was the Cambrian period, which is also important to paleontologists because the rocks from this time are rich in fossils. During this period, evolution hit its peak, and for about 40 million years animal body plans were rapidly changing (Williams et al, 2007). Because of the sudden explosion of diversity during this period, it is sometimes referred to as the Cambrian radiation or Cambrian explosion. Many of the species that existed during this time period were marine organisms, mainly because at the beginning of the Cambrian period, life was entirely confined to the oceans. The evolution during this time period is described as a chain reaction which was triggered by plant life through a large-scale photosynthetic release of oxygen in the atmosphere. This was significant mainly because energy-releasing and oxygen-burning processes became available to the evolution of animal life (Levi-Setti, 1995).
One of the more commonly known groups of organisms from this era is the trilobites, and although these organisms were fast to evolve and diversify, many other groups soon branched off. Other groups that existed during the Paleozoic era were brachiopods, mollusks, sponges, and echinoderms. Among the earliest arthropods to evolve, trilobites inhabited shallow Paleozoic seas more than 500 million years ago (Solomon et al, 2008). This paper will look at and investigate this generality in more detail in order to compare it to what research proves to be true today. The topic for this paper is proving how people know trilobites once existed five hundred million years ago, and what research has led up to this.
Although the Paleozoic Era began more than 540 million years ago, trilobite history didn’t begin until 520 million years ago. They were among the earliest arthropods to evolve, not to mention one of the quickest to evolve. During this...