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Timeline of Paleontology
Timeline of notable events in the sudy of ancient life
c. 1500 -- Leonardo da Vinci uses ichnofossils to complement his hypothesis concerning the biogenic nature of body fossils.
1665 -- In his book MicrographiaRobert Hooke compares petrified wood to wood, concludes that petrified wood formed from wood soaked in mineral-rich water, and argues that fossils like Ammonite shells were produced the same way, sparking debate over the organic origin of fossils and the possibility of extinction. 
1789 -- The skeleton of a large animal is unearthed in Argentina. In 1796 Cuvier reports that it had an affinity to modern tree sloths and names it Megatherium. 
1796 -- Cuvier presents a paper on living and fossil elephants that shows that mammoths were a different species from any living elephant. He argues that this proved the reality of extinction, which he attributes to a geological catastrophe.
1800 -- Cuvier writes that a drawing of a fossil found in Bavaria shows a flying reptile; in 1809 he names it Pterodactyl.
1808 -- Cuvier and Alexandre Brongniart publish preliminary results of their survey of the geology of the Paris Basin that uses the fossils found in different strata to reconstruct the geologic history of the region.
1824 -- Buckland finds lower jaw of the carnivorous dinosaur Megalosaurus.
1829 -- Buckland publishes paper on work he and Mary Anning had done identifying and analyzing fossilized feces found at Lyme Regis and elsewhere. Buckland coins the term "coprolite" for them, and uses them to analyze ancient food chains.
1831 -- Mantell publishes an influential paper entitled "The Age of Reptiles" summarizing evidence of an extended period during which large reptiles had been the dominant animals.
1832 -- Mantell finds partial skeleton of the dinosaur Hylaeosaurus.
1836 -- Edward Hitchcock describes footprints (Eubrontes and Otozoum) of giant birds from Jurassic formations in Connecticut. Later they would be recognized as dinosaur tracks.
1841 -- Anatomist Richard Owen creates a new order of reptiles, dinosauria, for animals: Iguanodon, Megalosaurus, and Hylaeosaurus, found by Mantell and Buckland.
1841 -- The first global geologic timescale is defined by John Phillips based on the type of fossils found in different rock layers. He coins the term "Mesozoic" for what Mantell had called "The Age of Reptiles."
^Head, Jason J.; Jonathan I. Bloch; Alexander K. Hastings; Jason R. Bourque; Edwin A. Cadena; Fabiany A. Herrera; P. David Polly; Carlos A. Jaramillo (2009). "Giant boid snake from the paleocene neotropics reveals hotter past equatorial temperatures". Nature. 457 (7230): 715-718. doi:10.1038/nature07671. PMID19194448.