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Fossils provide a powerful tool for the study of the nearly four-billion-year history of life, and its role in the evolution of Earth systems. They also provide important data for evolutionary studies, and contribute to our understanding of the extinction of organisms and the origins of modern biodiversity. This book is written for students taking an introductory level course in paleontology. Short chapters introduce the main topics in the modern study of fossils.
The most important fossil groups are discussed, from microfossils through invertebrates to vertebrates and plants, followed by a brief narrative of life on Earth. Diagrams are central to the book and allow the reader to see most of the important data 'at a glance'. Each topic covers two pages and provides a self-contained suite of information or a starting point for future study. This second edition has been thoroughly revised and brought up to date. It includes new line diagrams as well as photographs of selected fossils.