Wednesday Word of the Week: Paleontology

Paleontology: [pey-lee-uhn-tol-uh-jee]
Noun: the study of the history of life on Earth as based on fossils. Fossils are the remains of plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and single-celled living things that have been replaced by rock material or impressions of organisms preserved in rock.

2011-09-14_1200748.JPGPaleontologists use fossil remains to understand different aspects of extinct and living organisms. Individual fossils may contain information about an organism’s life and environment. Much like the rings of a tree, for example, each ring on the surface of an oyster shell denotes one year of its life. Studying oyster fossils can help paleontologists discover how long the oyster lived, and in what conditions. (

Want to see paleontology in sweet 3D action? Watch National Geographic Entertainment’s Flying Monsters 3D, a film that sets out to uncover the truth about the dinosaur cousin, the pterosaur, with a wingspan of approximately 12 meters (40 feet) and equal to that of a modern-day jet plane. Flying Monsters 3D features one of the greatest mysteries in paleontology and attempts to answer questions like, “How did creatures the size of giraffes defy gravity and soar through prehistoric skies?” Check out the trailer below or visit the website for a list of theaters near you. Teachers can find activities for students K-12 in our Flying Monsters Education Collection.

The Wednesday Word of the Week is just one way to start expanding the breadth of your geographic vocabulary. Some words you’ll recognize, and some will be new. Regardless of whether you know the word or not, we at National Geographic Education challenge you to use our words of the week.  Whether in the classroom, in everyday conversation, through the arts, or simply by checking out our provided links, we encourage you to make great use of our words in creative ways!

Photo Credit: My Shot Your Shot, Simone Lunardi
–Julia from My Wonderful World

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