Mihai's Paleobotany Chronicles


This course covers the fields of Stratigraphy and Historical Geology and it is taught in English by Prof. Mihai Emilian Popa for undergraduate students of School of Geoscience and Technology, Southwestern Petroleum University in Chengdu, Sichuan. The course details the principles of Stratigraphy, its history as an Earth Science, deals with the correlation and dating of strata using absolute and relative methods. The Historical Geology details the main biotic, tectonic and astronomic events in the history of Earth since its formation as a planet until the Industrial Revolution (Anthropocene). The structure of the course is the following:

1. The facies concept: definition, types and analysis;

2. The principles of Stratigraphy as defined by Nicholas Steno (superposition, original horizontality of strata, lateral development of strata), Charles Lyell (Uniformitarianism, today refined as Actualism) and Charles Darwin (evolution of species). The ideas of Abraham G. Werner (Neptunism) and John Hutton (Plutonism) are discussed as historical ideas;

3. Correlation and dating of strata: absolute (e.g. radiometric) and relative (e.g. palaeontological) methods of analysis, interpretation of various stratigraphic data sets;

4. Stratigraphic units, stratotypes, geochronological and chronostratigraphical scales and units. The Geological timetable. Reconstructing continental drift using the concept of Plate tectonics;

5. The formation of Earth, of the Moon, and the astronomical, tectonic, pre-biotic and biotic events of the Archaean;

6. The Proterozoic: biotic (e.g. diversification of Monera, origin of Eucarya and of multicellular organisms, etc.), tectonic and palaeoclimate (e.g. Snowball Earth) events, chronology and palaeogeography (e.g. Ur, Rodinia, Pannotia);

7. The Early Palaeozoic: biotic events (e.g. the Cambrian explosion, the Ordovician extinction), tectonic events (the Caledonian Orogeny), astronomic events (e.g. the Middle Ordovician impact), palaeoclimate evolution and palaeogeography;

8. The Late Palaeozoic: biotic events (e.g. the Devonian and the Permian extinctions, the conquest of land, the origin of amphybians and of reptiles), tectonic events (the Hercynian Orogeny, the Siberian Trappes), astronomic events (e.g. Late Permian impact), palaeoclimate evolution (e.g. the Late Carboniferous ice house effect) and palaeogeography (formation of the last Pangea);

9. The Mesozoic: biotic events (e.g. the Triassic recovery, the origin of dinosaurs, of birds, of mammals, of flowering plants, the end-Triassic and the end-Cretaceous extinctions), tectonic events (e.g. the breakup of Pangea, the Alpine Orogeny), astronomic events (e.g. the Late Triassic and the end-Cretaceous impacts), palaeoclimate evolution and palaeogeography (e.g. the Palaeotethys and the Tethys realms, evolution of South and North China blocks).

10. The Cenozoic: biotic events (e.g. the Palaeogene recovery, diversification of mammals, of flowering plants, origin and evolution of hominins), tectonic events (e.g. the Alpine Orogeny, evolution of the Himalayas and of the Tibet blocks), palaeoclimate evolution (e.g. the Palaeocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum or PETM) and palaeogeography (the migration of the Indian block, the evolution of Tethys and Paratethys, etc.).

Cotillon, P., 1992. Stratigraphy. Berlin: Springer Verlag.

Dott, R.H., Prothero, D.R., 1994. Evolution of the Earth, 5 ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Wicander, R., Monroe, J. S., 2016. Historical Geology: evolution of Earth and life through time, Boston: Cengage learning.

Other courses taught by Prof. Mihai Emilian Popa (page in Romanian).