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Paleontology is the study of prehistoric life. It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms' evolution and interactions with each other and their environments (their paleoecology). As a "historical science" it attempts to explain causes rather than conduct experiments to observe effects. Paleontological observations have been documented as far back as the 5th century B.C.E. The term itself originates from Greek: παλαιός (palaios) meaning "old, ancient," ὄν, ὀντ- (on, ont-) meaning "being, creature" and λόγος (logos) meaning "speech, thought, study." The simplest definition is "the study of ancient life". Paleontology seeks information about several aspects of past organisms: "their identity and origin, their environment and evolution, and what they can tell us about the Earth's organic and inorganic past".

 
 


Deducing the ancient habitats of trilobites from their surrounding matrix today, trilobite fossils have been found on every continent and subcontinent, and judging from the type of sediment in which they are found, we can deduce whether species were nearshore (e.g., in limestones formed from fossil fringing reefs) or from deeper habitats (e.g., marked by atheloptic species found in continental slope sediments).

While it seems that the earliest Cambrian trilobites lived largely in shallower habitats, by Mid-Cambrian times the whole inshore to deep water range of biofacies was occupied by trilobites.

These developed regional diagnostic genera that occupied concentric bands away from inferred shorelines, as shown in the example, taken from the Devonian shores of the Old World (Gondwana) Province (the origin of today's Moroccan trilobite beds).
 
 



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