5
$\begingroup$

Some examples:

See also the tag.

Where is the dividing line between too biological and on-topic for questions like these?

| |
$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The question I'm asking myself is 'is this question directly relevant to an earth system?'. Dinosaur evolution/biology isn't. Fossil records are. $\endgroup$ – DrewP84 Apr 18 '14 at 1:58
  • $\begingroup$ Can you define "earth system"? I don't find that a simple division at the moment... $\endgroup$ – naught101 Apr 18 '14 at 2:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Earth system science seeks to integrate various fields of academic study to understand the Earth as a system. It considers interaction between the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere (geosphere), biosphere, and heliosphere via en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_system_science. Biology is on topic as long as it is relevant to the entire 'earth system', ie envirotranspiration in the water cycle or the role of phytoplankton in the global carbon budget. $\endgroup$ – DrewP84 Apr 18 '14 at 2:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As a side note, the paleontology tag of the Biology SE is very poor to this date, and very dinosaur-centric (which as a non-dinosaur paleontologist I resent a little :) ) $\endgroup$ – plannapus Apr 18 '14 at 7:37
  • $\begingroup$ "Where is the dividing line" - The simple answer is that there isn't one. As a geologist working in a palaeontological job in a museum, here's my two cents. There is no convenient dividing line that can be drawn. Human knowledge really isn't something that easy to pidgeon-hole. You can always use a "soft" boundary based on from which area of palaeontology the question comes from; does it have a biology root (evo-devo, cladistics or anatomy) or is it geological (special preservation, fossil forming environments, biostratigraphy). The problem is you will always get questions that straddle both. $\endgroup$ – Ben Brooks Apr 18 '14 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ Final Thought: this does remind me an awful lot of the typical "hard rock geologist's" anti-palaeobiology gambit that university hard rock geologists loved to trot out when I was studying. $\endgroup$ – Ben Brooks Apr 18 '14 at 16:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BenBrooks: no one said it had to be a straight line :P $\endgroup$ – naught101 Apr 18 '14 at 22:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ if the evidence to solve the question comes from earth science/geology/palaeontology disciplines. $\endgroup$ – Siv Apr 20 '14 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ What percentage of dinosaurs had feathers is off topic on ES. I suggest that you vote to close this question. $\endgroup$ – BHF Apr 21 '14 at 11:04
  • $\begingroup$ @BHF, I believe this question was already closed and subsequently re-opened. $\endgroup$ – Kenshin Apr 21 '14 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ I am suggesting that other people with left over closing votes correct the re-opening. $\endgroup$ – BHF Apr 21 '14 at 11:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You could also try to make a point as to why this is off topic. $\endgroup$ – plannapus Apr 21 '14 at 11:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The question is about the extent of the fossil record of feathered dinosaurs. This is not about their biology. $\endgroup$ – plannapus Apr 21 '14 at 11:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ if cars had disappeared millions of years ago and the only way that we could know that some of them had diesel engine and some gasoline would be that an infinitesimal fraction of them were preserved in a given type of sediments, then yes it wouldn't be different at all. $\endgroup$ – plannapus Apr 21 '14 at 11:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I am afraid I have to disagree with you @BHF, on a fundamental level that question is asking about the state of the fossil record. That is not biology. To argue that having an Earth Science Q&A site answer questions about palaeontology requires 'too broad' a definition of earth science is to my mind beyond the pale. As I've already said, Palaeontology is a science that sits between two disciplines, some palaeontology questions would be 'off-topic' over at Biology. I would however grant that the question is poorly phrased for what people seem to want in terms of an 'expert level' question. $\endgroup$ – Ben Brooks Apr 21 '14 at 12:26
5
$\begingroup$

So that people can vote on it, I'll go with an answer:

I do think that paleontology is mainly on-topic here but that the openly biological aspect of it (such as taxonomy and anatomy, and to some extant, evolutionary biology) should be asked on Biology.

Questions concerning:

  • the fossilization process and the sedimentological impact of fossils
  • the extent of the fossil record itself
  • mass-extinctions and the impact of abiotic processes on biodiversity
  • the place of biological organisms in geological cycles (Carbon, phosphorous, oxygen, silica cycles to name a few) and, more generally speaking, the impact of life on Earth
  • the applications of paleontology to other fields of the geosciences (biostratigraphy, paleoenvironments, paleoclimatology, paleoceanography)

are very much on-topic here, I believe.

| |
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

I'm unsure, would a discussion about the Eurypterid mass moult mate hypothesis not be on topic? palaeozoic insect gigantism? the merits of punctuated equilibrium over gradualism? the taxonomic affiliations of enigmatic early land plants? histological comparisons of dinosaur bones? functional analysis? cladistic analyses? to me these subjects are very much of palaeontology relating to Earth history and thus Earth sciences. What proposed boundaries are being considered with Geochemistry? if it includes chemical equations does it then become off topic? crystallography and mineralogy are counted under chemistry and allied sciences in the Dewey decimal system.

Personally I'd generally make the boundary one of being "would this subject likely be published in an Earth Science journal?" inclusive of palaeontology ones, rather than making life difficult and trying to formulate new and complex rules.

| |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ just to make it clear: my own personal opinion is indeed that all paleontology should be on-topic here (in particular because the paleontology tag on Biology.SE is dead: 10 questions in 2 years and a half of existence) but this is clearly not the opinion of everyone around, hence my "middle-ground" answer. Maybe when the site will be more mature, depending on the crowd we attracted, we'll be able to reconsider. $\endgroup$ – plannapus Apr 23 '14 at 13:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .