Biostratigraphy & Palaeontology

Duria antiquior: Part of a cartoon of life in ancient Dorset, by Sir Henry De la Beche (1830), the first director of the British Geological Survey. Image reproduced Courtesy of the Department of Geology, National Museum of Wales.

Fossils are one of the most immediately recognisable aspects of geology, but in spite of this, their value as a geological tool is less widely appreciated amongst non-geologists.

The occurrence and distribution of fossils provides fundamental information about the age of sedimentary rocks and clues to the environment in which they were formed. Fossil data can show how different sedimentary rock successions in different regions are related, and can be used to identify particular geological units. This geological usefulness has ensured that Biostratigraphy and Palaeontology remain central to many areas of work within BGS, including:

  • geological mapping and basin modelling
  • hydrocarbons exploration
  • civil engineering site investigation
  • aquifer modelling

Fossil data also helps to answer globally important questions about the impact of current changes to climate and environments.
At BGS our work focuses on the applied aspects of palaeontology –

Biostratigraphy - using fossils to date and correlate rock successions
Palaeoecology - using fossils to understand the environments in which rocks were formed
Palaeogeography - using fossils to understand the past distribution of landmasses and oceans