Paleobiology (sometimes spelled palaeobiology) is a growing and comparatively new discipline which combines the methods and findings of the natural science biology with the methods and findings of the earth science paleontology.
Typical paleobiological (or paleobiologic) research attempts to answer biological questions using geological objects such as fossils found in the field. Both macrofossils and microfossils are typically analyzed, although the 21st-century genetic analysis of D.N.A. and R.N.A. samples offers much promise.
An investigator in this research field is known as a paleobiologist.
- applying the principles and methods of paleobiology to flora, especially green land plants, but also including the fungi and seaweeds (algae). See also mycology, phycology and dendrochronology.
- using the methods and principles of paleobiology to understand fauna, both vertebrates and invertebrates. See also vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology.
- applying paleobiologic principles and methods to archaea, bacteria, protists, microscopic pollen/spores, and perhaps someday viruses. See also microfossils, palynology, and microorganisms.
- using the methods and principles of organic chemistry to detect and analyze molecular-level evidence of ancient life, both microscopic and macroscopic.
- analyzing the post-mortem history (for example, decay and decomposition) of an individual organism in order to gain insight on the behavior, death and environment of the fossilized organism.
- analyzing the tracks, borings, trails, burrows, impressions, and other trace fossils left by ancient organisms (for example, scolecodonts) in order to gain insight into their behavior and ecology.
- studying long-term secular changes, as well as the (short-term) bed-by-bed sequence of changes, in organismal characteristics and behaviors. See also stratification, sedimentary rocks and the geologic time scale.
- examining the evolutionary aspects of the modes and trajectories of growth and development in the evolution of life -- clades both extinct and extant. See also evolutionary biology, phylogenetic tree, and cladistics.
The founder or "father" of modern paleobiology is commonly agreed to be Baron Franz Nopcsa (1877 to 1933), a turn-of-the-century Balkan scientist. He is also known as Baron Nopcsa, Ferenc Nopcsa, and Franz Nopcsa von Felsö-Szilvás. He initially termed the discipline "paleophysiology."