This course focuses on the geological and evolutionary processes that have shaped our planet and life on it over the last 550 million years, the long, fossil-rich period known as the Phanerozoic. Using Indiana as the focus, you will learn about the evolutionary history of major groups of animals and plants, the origins of life on land, the growth of the North American continent, changes to the Earth's atmosphere and oceans, and the interactions among life, climate, sediments, and geological structures.


Information about the crinoid Elegantocrinus hemisphericus, the Elegant Sea-lily

Elegantocrinus hemisphaericus

Most Recent Lecture

Back to the Present, and the Future

Friday, April 26th, 13:25 - 02:15 PM, GY 447

The pattern of glacial-interglacial cycles; Oxygen isotope proxies for climate; Regional differences in paleoenvironmental change; Late Quaternary extinction and the role of humans; Current changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature; Comparison with past; Certainties and uncertainties from a geological and paleontological perspective.

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Indiana Fossils

Heterotrypa ulrichi

The bryozoan Heterotrypa ulrichi from the Ordovician of Indiana.

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Technical terms


the end of a named species when it speciates into two descendant species or changes so much that a new species name is applied. Pseudoextinction differs from ordinary extinction in that diversity does not decrease with a pseudoextinction and sometimes, in fact, increases.

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Hoosier paleontologists

Edgar Roscoe Cumings

Edgar Roscoe Cumings was a long-time chair of the Geology Department of Indiana University from 1904 to 1942. He arrived at IU in 1898, after doing graduate work at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He later took a leave of absence to obtain his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1903. He and his students studied the paleontology of Indiana and began building the IU Paleontology Collection in earnest. Cumings notably led work on the Cincinnatian (Late Ordovician) of Indiana, the Silurian reefs in the northern part of the state, and on the fauna of the Salem Limestone. Cumings was originally from Ohio and was married to Frances L. Cumings, originally of Pennsylvanian. They had two children, Edith K. and Edgar C. Cumings.

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Syllabus 2013


Hoosier Paleontologists

Technical Terms


Dr. P. David Polly

Department of Geological Sciences
Indiana University
1001 E. 10th Street
Bloomington, IN 47405