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Catastrophism Cuvier came to believe that most, if not all, the animal fossils he examined were remains of species that had become extinct. Near the end of his paper on living and fossil elephants, he said: All of these facts, consistent among themselves, and not opposed by any report, seem to me to prove the existence of a world previous to ours, destroyed by some kind of catastrophe.
Contrary to many natural scientists' beliefs at the time, Cuvier believed that animal extinction was not a product of anthropogenic causes. Instead, he proposed that humans were around long enough to indirectly maintain the fossilized records of ancient Earth.
He also attempted to verify the water catastrophe by analyzing records of various cultural backgrounds. Though he found many accounts of the water catastrophe unclear, he did believe that such an event occurred at the brink of human history nonetheless.
This led Cuvier to become an active proponent of the geological school of thought called catastrophismwhich maintained that many of the geological features of the earth and the history of life could be explained by catastrophic events that had caused the extinction of many species of animals.
Over the course of his career, Cuvier came to believe there had not been a single catastrophe, but several, resulting in a succession of different faunas. The former proposed that the continents existing ten millennia ago collapsed, allowing the ocean floors Georges cuvier essay on the theory of the earth rise higher than the continental plates and become the continents that now exist today.
The latter proposed that a massive tsunami hit the globe, leading to mass extinction. Whatever the case was, he believed that the deluge happened quite recently in human history. In fact, he believed that Earth's existence was limited and not as extended as many natural scientists, like Lamarckbelieved it to be.
Much of the evidence he used to support his catastrophist theories have been taken from his fossil records. He strongly suggested that the fossils he found were evidence of the world's first reptiles, followed chronologically by mammals and humans.
Cuvier didn't wish to delve much into the causation of all the extinction and introduction of new animal species but rather focused on the sequential aspects of animal history on Earth.
In a way, his chronological dating of Earth history somewhat reflected Lamarck's transformationist theories. Cuvier also worked alongside Alexandre Brongniart in analyzing the Parisian rock cycle.
Using stratigraphical methods, they were both able to extrapolate key information regarding Earth history from studying these rocks.
These rocks contained remnants of molluscs, bones of mammals, and shells. From these findings, Cuvier and Brongniart concluded that many environmental changes occurred in quick catastrophes, though Earth itself was often placid for extended periods of time in between sudden disturbances.
The 'Preliminary Discourse' became very well known and, unauthorized translations were made into English, German, and Italian and in the case of those in English, not entirely accurately.
The increasing interest in the topic of mass extinction starting in the late twentieth century, however, has led to a resurgence of interest among historians of science and other scholars in this aspect of Cuvier's work. They published a preliminary version in and the final version was published in In this monograph they identified characteristic fossils of different rock layers that they used to analyze the geological column, the ordered layers of sedimentary rock, of the Paris basin.
They concluded that the layers had been laid down over an extended period during which there clearly had been faunal succession and that the area had been submerged under sea water at times and at other times under fresh water. Along with William Smith 's work during the same period on a geological map of England, which also used characteristic fossils and the principle of faunal succession to correlate layers of sedimentary rock, the monograph helped establish the scientific discipline of stratigraphy.
It was a major development in the history of paleontology and the history of geology. In Cuvier identified a fossil found in Maastricht as a giant marine lizard, the first known mosasaur. Cuvier speculated correctly that there had been a time when reptiles rather than mammals had been the dominant fauna.
Principle of the correlation of parts[ edit ] In a paper on the fossil remains of an animal found in some plaster quarries near Paris, Cuvier states what is known as the principle of the correlation of parts.
For these relations are the necessary conditions of existence of the animal; if things were not so, it would not be able to subsist. This idea is referred to as Cuvier's principle of correlation of parts, which states that all organs in an animal's body are deeply interdependent.
Species' existence relies on the way in which these organs interact. For example, a species whose digestive tract is best suited to digesting flesh but whose body is best suited to foraging for plants cannot survive.
Thus in all species, the functional significance of each body part must be correlated to the others, else the species cannot sustain itself. In most cases, fossils of quadrupeds were not found as complete, assembled skeletons, but rather as scattered pieces that needed to be put together by anatomists.
To make matters worse, deposits often contained the fossilized remains of several species of animals mixed together. Anatomists reassembling these skeletons ran the risk of combining remains of different species, producing imaginary composite species.
However, by examining the functional purpose of each bone and applying the principle of correlation of parts, Cuvier believed that this problem could be avoided.
This principle's ability to aid in reconstruction of fossils was also helpful to Cuvier's work in providing evidence in favor extinction. The strongest evidence Cuvier could provide in favor of extinction would be to prove that the fossilized remains of an animal belonged to a species that no longer existed.No stable link: This is an uncurated book entry from our extended bookshelves, readable online now but without a stable link here.
You should not bookmark this page, but you can request that we add this book to our curated collection, which has stable links. The Essay on the Theory of the Earth, now translated, is the introductory part of the great work of Cuvier.
The subject of the deluge forms a principal object of this elegant discourse. Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier () was a French naturalist and zoologist, who was instrumental in establishing the fields of comparative anatomy and paleontology through his work in comparing living animals with benjaminpohle.coms: 3.
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