Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 76.djvu/590

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586
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

quoting from the address of Professor Woodward, to which reference has already been made:

Geology and paleontology in the past have furnished some of the grandest contributions to our knowledge of the world of life; they have revealed hidden meanings which no study of the existing world could even suggest; and they have started lines of inquiry which the student of living plants and animals alone would scarcely have suspected to be profitable.

 


ADEQUACY OF THE PALEONTOLOGIC RECORD
By R. S. BASSLER

D. S. NATIONAL MUSEUM

THE imperfection or inadequacy, instead of the adequacy of the paleontologic record, has long been a favorite subject of discussion, and it is only within recent years that this heresy of an imperfect record is being abandoned by paleontologists in general. However, as many of our biologic, and even a few of our paleontologic, friends still have doubts regarding the matter, the present conference upon this and allied subjects is very opportune.

I have a vivid recollection of the joy experienced in my school days, when, during an examination in geology, the subject of an impromptu essay was announced as "The Imperfection of the Paleontologic Record." Here was a subject in which I was well grounded from textbook reading, and I remember distinctly the telling points made. The lack of hard parts causing the absence of many classes of animals; the great amount of unrepresented time in the geologic column; the metamorphism and consequent disappearance of fossils, and, when present, the frequent imperfectness of the specimens themselves, were dwelt on in great detail. Since that time, my experience in invertebrate paleontology has compelled me to unlearn every one of these supposed facts, and to come to the conclusion that, considered both biologically and stratigraphically, the paleontologic record is sufficiently adequate for all reasonable purposes.

Professor Calvin's paper tells us (1) of the detailed perfection of the record, (2) of the profusion of the material, and (3) of the broad view as to trend and tendency of biologic characters which the study of paleontology gives. His presentation of the subject is such that we must all agree with him. It therefore seems best for me to confine my remarks to the reasons usually advocated for the imperfection, namely, the lack of hard parts in many animals, metamorphism, the frequent imperfect preservation of fossils, and the unrepresented time in the geologic column.

The lack of hard parts in many animals is a serious, although not fatal, objection to their preservation as fossils. For the best results as