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The University of Southampton

SOES2032 Palaeobiology

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

1. To investigate several of the major fields of current interest in theoretical and practical palaeontology. 2. To understand fossils as living organisms. 3. To see how fossils are applied in ecological studies.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate some of the current issues in palaeontology
  • Understand the significance of taphonomy
  • Relate morphology to function
  • Make simple palaeoecological deductions.
  • Handling numerical data on evolution & extinction
  • Interpreting fossil form & assemblages
  • Ability to relate type of preservation to palaeoenvironmental conditions.


Evolution: the problems of origin, radiation, functional adaptation and extinction of fossil groups. Taphonomy: examples of exceptional preservation and their significance for the evolutionary and palaeo-ecological record. Palaeoecology: significance and use of fossils in environmental interpretation, palaeoecological methods. Functional morphology: dynamics of flight and swimming in extinct reptiles. Evolution of flight. Interpretation and handling of data, morphology and evolution in selected groups, e.g. trilobites, cephalopods, brachiopods, bivalves and dinosaurs.

Special Features

There will be a compulsory field course. The best-performing student on this module may be awarded the Palaeontological Society Prize at the end of the year.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal lectures: will cover the main topics of evolution, taphonomy, palaeoecology, and functional morphology. Practical classes & demonstrations: will exemplify theory and allow you to develop appropriate practical skills. The practical classes are fully interactive allowing you hands-on experience of using microscopes, etc. under laboratory conditions. Fieldwork during a one-day fieldcourse: you will develop your investigative skills, by relating types of preservation to palaeoenvironmental conditions. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Independent Study109
Practical classes and workshops20
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Field trip 20%
Theory examination  (2 hours) 60%
Web-based assessment 20%

Linked modules


To study this module, you will need to have studied the following module(s):

SOES1009The Living Earth
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