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The importance
of Paleontology


Cretaceous bivalve from outcrops of the Lachman Crags Formation, James Ross Island, Antarctica. Photo: Orlando Grillo, 2006.
 
Paleontology is the study of ancient organisms. This is the literal meaning encoded in this word and is aptly the best-remembered synthesis of what paleontologists do: digging, preparing, comparing, analyzing, and cataloging organisms preserved as fossils inside rocks for thousands, millions and even billions of years. However, the passion and the work of the paleontologist do not merely produce a bestiary of immemorial time. The discovery and description of patterns and the understanding of natural processes and governing dynamics are the main results of this work. By themselves, and allied with scientists from other fields, paleontologists offer elements of understanding the tempo and mode of ascension and fall of species, the nature of major extinction events, and the complex interactions between the biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere throughout geological time. Even more important, we consider that Paleontology has a role to play in the scientific education of the current and future generations. Benefited by art and imagination, Paleontology represents one of the scientific fields with wider popular interest, and dinosaurs in special are among the most common intense interests of young children. Few other scientific fields promote such awakening of vocations of young talents to STEM and to the adoption of technical-scientific professions. We have, after all, a more complete perspective on the contributions of Paleontology beyond its name: To Unravel the past, Resignify the present, Build the future.