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One of the principal objectives of geologists studying sedimentary rocks is the reconstruction of the environment in which the rocks were deposited Correct reconstruction may result in the discovery of oilfields deposits of salts or base metals and provide insight to our earths past As evidence to ancient environments the geologist has the structures textures and composition of the grains that make up the sediments and the fossils preserved in them Organisms are far more sensitive to and therefore diagnostic of the environment in whixh they live than are the grains of sediment to the environment in which they were deposited A study of the way of life and environmental requirements of organisms that become fossils therefore yields the most accurate information about the environment in which sediments were formed Ecology is the study of the relations between modern organisms and the environments in which they live paleoecology is the study of these relations between species represented in the fossil record and the environments they inhabited Unlike ecologists the paleoecolgist has to work with organisms that are no longer alive and are very often misrepresented in the fossil record Despite the limitations of dead and imperfectly preserved organisms and the lack of direct information on the characteristics of the ancient environments paleoecolgists can reconstruct ancient communities in considerable detail One of the greatest aids to paleoecological reconstruction is what is known as paleoecological inference The paleoecologist infers that similar relationships existed in the past between organisms and their environments than those of modern organisms During this process it undeniable that groups in the reconstructed ecosystem will be poorly represented or missing entirely For example the primary producers of marine ecosystems are microscopic planktonic plants that are rarely preserved but are presumed to have existed since the Archean because they are essential to life in the marine environment In such a way paleoecologists can compare the forms of modern animals of known trophic roles with those
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