Palaeoecology and taphonomy


Environmental and Regional Studies (3rd level)

Paleobiology and sedimentary geology (3rd Cycle)

Course code: DIP04
Year of study: without

Course principal:
Prof. Aleksander Horvat, Ph. D.


Workload: lectures 30 hours, seminar 10 hours, tutorial 20 hours, individual work 120 hours
Course type: modul elective
Languages: Slovene, English
Learning and teaching methods: lectures, e-learning, seminars, practical training


Course syllabus (download)


Inscription to the 1st academic year.


Content (Syllabus outline):

  • Evolution of biosphere: aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, mode of life and trophical regime in deep time; global changes in atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere
  • Methods in palaeoecology and taphonomy
  • Fossils as environmental indicators
  • Environmental control on biotic distributions
  • Evolutionary palaeocology of individual organism groups and ecosystems
  • Taphonomy: fossilization processes and diagenesis of skeleton minerals; preservation in different ecological settings, taphonomy and Phanerozoic biodiversity, concept of taphofacies, lagerstätten
  • Ichnology
  • Populations, communities and assemblages
  • Adaptive and functional morphology
  • Palaeobiogeography, palaeoclimatology and evolution
  • Ecological architecture of major events in the Phanerozoic life history



Selected chapters and papers from:

  • Allison, P. A. & Bottjer, D. J. 2011: Taphonomy: Process and Bias Through time. 2nd edition, 1-612, Springer.
  • Allmon, W. D. & Bottjer, D. J. 2001: Evolutionary Paleoecology. Columbia Uni. Press, 1-357.
  • Brenchley, P.J. & Harper, D.A.T., 1998: Palaeoecology, Ecosystems, Environments and Evolution. Champan & Hall, 1-402.
  • Briggs, D. E. G. & Crowther, P. R. (Eds.) 1990: Palaeobiology: A synthesis. Blackwell Publishing, 1-555.
  • Briggs, D. E. G. & Crowther, P. R. (Eds.) 2003: Palaeobiology II. Blackwell Publishing, 1-583.
  • Hammer, Ø. & Harper, D. 2006: Paleontological data analysis. Blackwell Sci. Publ., 1-351.
  • Jackson, J. B. C., & Erwin, D. H. 2006: What can we learn about ecology and evolution from the fossil record? Trends in Ecology & Evolution21/6: 322–328.
  • Lieberman, B.S., 2000: Paleobiogeography: Using fossils to study global change, plate tectonics and evolution. Kluwer Acad. Press., 1-208.
  • Palaeogeography, Paleoclimatology, Palaeoecology (Elsevier Publ.)


Objectives and competences:

In this course, students will be able to identify and explain major concepts in palaeoecology and investigate essential principles regarding the biotic and abiotic factors affecting modern and past environments. Students will be required to identify the fossil, interpret the mode of life and analyze its functional morphology. Students should be able to analyze a fossil assemblage and reconstruct its geological and palaeoenvironmental contexts. Students should be able to recognize and evaluate palaeoecological and environmental changes in rock record and explain the causes for that. Students should be able to explain the importance of palaeoecology and palaeontology to other realms of knowledge including geology, biology, and global change. Students should identify major publications in the area of palaeoecological concepts as well as works dealing with specific taxonomic groups.


Intended learning outcomes:

Knowledge and understanding:

  • Analyze and interpret fossil assemblages for form and function and palaeoenvironmental setting.
  • Discuss the concepts and important questions in palaeoecology.
  • Incorporate palaeoecological questions and data into own research.
  • Choose, independently investigate, and prepare a written and oral report on a topic in palaeoecology.



Written or oral exam (50 %), written essay/paper (50 %).