"Paleontology in the Twenty-First Century" Lane, H. Richard (1997)

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"Paleontology in the Twenty-First Century"
H. Richard Lane (1997)

URL: http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/sepm/palaios (click April 1997 and title links)

SITE SUMMARY: Written by H. Richard Lane of the Exploration and Production Technology Group at the Amoco Corporation in Houston, Texas, this article is subtitled "Which Way Ought Paleontology to Proceed from Here?" In this article, which appeared in the April 1997 issue of Palaios, Lane reveals what paleontologists have focused on in the past fifty years, then indicates where paleontologists are now and uses a literary metaphor to make the situation clearer. He offers a definition of paleontology, compares aspects of paleontology, and reveals what is imperative that paleontologists must do now. He also points to paleontology's connections with other sciences and uses a musical metaphor and a social metaphor to pinpoint those connections. In addition, he suggests when the laws that impact paleontological science are especially important, and lists possible positive outcomes for an international paleontology conference and workshop.


  1. See what Lane quotes at the beginning of the article, then note the article's paragraphs one through four, and eight. How does he compare aspects of paleontology? How does he compare paleontology to other sciences? Identify a literary metaphor, a musical metaphor, and a social metaphor that he uses. How, do you think, these metaphors make his viewpoints clearer?
  2. What have paleontologists, according to Lane, focused on in the last fifty years? On what should they have focused? What is imperative that they do now?
  3. Identify which aspects of the study of paleontology are important if a student wishes to pursue a paleontology career in a museum, and provide reasons. Identify which aspects are important if one wants to do paleontology work that is connected to industry, and suggest why.
  4. See Lane's eight possible outcomes for an international paleontology conference and workshop. Choose one outcome. (Hint: See one of the outcomes numbered four, eight, five, or the second part of number one.) Write an essay offering suggestions on how to implement the chosen outcome.
  5. When, according to Lane, are laws that impact paleontological science especially important, and how?
  6. Read the Fossil Preservation Act of 1996, and the Antiquities Act of 1906. (Their urls can be found in the Related Internet Sites section below.) Briefly describe each law. Think of or find an example of a fossil, paleontology landmark, monument, or dig site. Including citations and quotations of specific points in the laws explain why the fossil, monument, landmark, or dig site should be saved, protected, and/or preserved. (Hint: For examples, find links to data on quarries or other real world dinosaur dig sites via the featured Web sites or the Related Internet Sites sections of this book's chapters that feature other dinosaur related documents [e.g., Michael Crichton's Foreword to the Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs 1997, "Paleontology: The Window to Science Education," "Paper Dinosaurs: A Hypertext Catalog of Rare Documents," "Paleobiology—In the News, Highlights, Subjects, and Links"] or the Paleontology area of the Web site Nearctica: Gateway to the Natural World of North America, whose url is cited in this book's Appendix B.)
  7. Read the "Paleontological Society Code of Fossil Collecting." Find as stated in the site summary for the Web page on "What Regulations Govern Fossil Collecting?" Its url is cited in the Related Internet Sites section below. See also the "Laws, Regulations, and Conventions Related to Archeology" Web site also cited in the Related Internet Sites section below. Note in addition "Archaeology and the Law" which is chapter five in the "Archaeology and You" section of the What Is Archaeology? booklet whose url can be found in the Related Internet Sites section of this book's chapter on the "The Science of Archaeology" document. Identify the parts of the laws or regulations that relate to paleontology digs and discoveries, and the scientific aspects associated with them. Next provide details from these regulations or laws to provide an explanation of the answer to Question/Activity no. 5 above, and include in your description references to professional people that Lane mentions and to avid hobbyists or dedicated fossil finders. Then adapt and apply Question/Activity no. 6 with relation to these laws.
  8. Optional activity: Study Lane's possible positive outcomes numbers six and seven for the international paleontology conference and workshop. Keep in mind Questions/Activities 4, 5, and 6 above. Write an essay with suggestions on how one or both of these outcomes might be accomplished.


What Regulations Govern Fossil Collecting?


See a brief explanation of basic regulations, then note a dead link to the Paleontological Society Code of Fossil Collecting that is now found at www.paleosoc.org/pscode.html, at www.prehistoricalplanet.com/features/articles/fossil_collecting.htm, and at Fossil Collecting—The Code (that features an adaptation of the Paleontological Society Code of Fossil Collecting) via www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/local/fossils.html with general advice on collecting, and an equipment checklist from the Rochester Academy of Science.

Laws, Regulations, and Conventions Related to Archeology


Has annotated links to documents on laws and regulations with relation to archeological as well as paleontological digs and specimens. Includes information about and links to the 1906 Antiquities Act, the 1916 National Park Service Organic Act, the 1935 Historic Sites Act, the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act, the 1974 Archeological and Historic Preservation Act, and the 1979 Archaeological Resources Protection Act, plus the Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archeological Collections, the Preservation of American Antiquities, and the Protection of Archeological Resources, in addition to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing illicit import, export, and transport of ownership of cultural property.

Fossil Preservation Act of 1996


Antiquities Act of 1906 (U.S. Code, Title 16, Section 433)

http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/topn/2.html (click link)

Emphasizes the preservation of "prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest."

President Theodore Roosevelt and the Antiquities Act of 1906


Click The Presidential Years—Accomplishments link, then the link under 1906 for "Roosevelt Signs U.S. Antiquities Act."

Wilderness Society—Newsroom—Press Release—"Theodore Roosevelt IV Testifies on Behalf of the Conservation Movement Regarding the Antiquities Act" (July 17, 2001)


This press release reveals that this conservationist and great grandson of the former United States president gave a speech before the Wilderness Society to try to convince twenty-first-century lawmakers to uphold, not alter, his noted relative's accomplishment. Note also his testimony on this subject online at www.wilderness.org/newsroom/pdf/monuments_rooseveltstatement.pdf.

Fossil Expeditions Ethics, Laws, and Permits for Day Trips into Florida's Ancient Past


Provides a detailed outline of rules that fossil hunters in the state of Florida must follow, and includes references to specific state laws.

"The State of Paleontological Collections in Industry"


Posted online on the paleonet listserv, this message, by H. Richard Lane of the Exploration and Production Technology Group at the Amoco Corporation in Houston, Texas, features a detailed request for data that will be of assistance in a research project.

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"Paleontology in the Twenty-First Century" Lane, H. Richard (1997)

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"Paleontology in the Twenty-First Century" Lane, H. Richard (1997)