Paleontology (/ˌpeɪliɒnˈtɒlədʒi,ˌpæli-,-ən-/), also spelled palaeontology or palæontology, is the scientific study of life that existed prior to, and sometimes including, the start of the Holoceneepoch (roughly 11,700 years before present). It includes the study of fossils to classify organisms and study their interactions with each other and their environments (their paleoecology). Paleontological observations have been documented as far back as the 5th century BC. The science became established in the 18th century as a result of Georges Cuvier's work on comparative anatomy, and developed rapidly in the 19th century. The term itself originates from Greekπαλαιός ('palaios', "old, ancient"), ὄν ('on', (gen.'ontos'), "being, creature"), and λόγος ('logos', "speech, thought, study").
Paleontology lies on the border between biology and geology, but differs from archaeology in that it excludes the study of anatomically modern humans. It now uses techniques drawn from a wide range of sciences, including biochemistry, mathematics, and engineering. Use of all these techniques has enabled paleontologists to discover much of the evolutionary history of life, almost all the way back to when Earth became capable of supporting life, nearly 4 billion years ago. As knowledge has increased, paleontology has developed specialised sub-divisions, some of which focus on different types of fossil organisms while others study ecology and environmental history, such as ancient climates. (Full article...)
Babakotia radofilai and all other sloth lemurs share many traits with living sloths, demonstrating convergent evolution. It had long forearms, curved digits, and highly mobile hip and ankle joints. Its skull was more heavily built than that of indriids, but not as much as in the larger sloth lemurs. Its dentition is similar to that of all other indriids and sloth lemurs. It lived in the northern part of Madagascar and shared its range with at least two other sloth lemur species, Palaeopropithecus ingens and Mesopropithecus dolichobrachion. Babakotia radofilai was primarily a leaf-eater (folivore), though it also ate fruit and hard seeds. It is known only from subfossil remains and may have died out shortly after the arrival of humans on the island, but not enough radiocarbon dating has been done with this species to know for certain. (see more...)
The debate over Darwin's work led to the rapid acceptance of the general concept of evolution, but the specific mechanism he proposed, natural selection, was not widely accepted until it was revived by developments in biology that occurred during the 1920s through the 1940s. Before that time most biologists argued that other factors were responsible for evolution. The synthesis of natural selection with Mendelian genetics during the 1920s and 1930s founded the new discipline of population genetics. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, population genetics became integrated with other biological fields, resulting in a widely applicable theory of evolution that encompassed much of biology—the modern evolutionary synthesis. (see more...)