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Digital Atlas Ancient Life

By The University of Kansas

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This is an interactive digital atlas for the paleontology time periods: Neogene, Pennsylvanian, Ordovician.

The Digital Atlas of Ancient Life Electronic Field Guide App is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation to principal investigators Dr. Bruce Lieberman (University of Kansas), Dr. Alycia Stigall (Ohio University), and Dr. Jonathan Hendricks (San Jose State University). The grant is titled, "Digitizing Fossils to Enable New Syntheses in Biogeography - Creating a PALEONICHES-TCN" (TCN stands for Thematic Collections Network).

This project is related to a broader natural history specimen digitization effort supported by the National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) called Integrated Digitized Biocollections, or iDigBio.

The main portal page for the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life project can be accessed at For additional information about the project, please see the recently published open-access paper by Hendricks, Stigall, and Lieberman (2015) in Palaeontologia Electronica. The individual websites can be accessed at: Ordovician Atlas, Pennsylvanian Atlas, and Neogene Atlas.

Funding for development and construction of this webpage was provided by the National Science Foundation (EF-1206757, EF-1206769, and EF-1206750)


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Customer Reviews

Very disappointing and poorly designed

It only covers three periods (Ordovician, Pennsylvanian, and Neogene), and for those it only covers selected invertebrates in a few states in the eastern US, with a different set of states for each time period. It doesn't even have Pennsylvania as one of the states for the Pennsylvanian, funnily enough.

The content it has for those is a list of some of the invertebrates found there, but they're organised taxonomically, so you have to already know what genus something is in to look it up. The photos are very limited and often undiagnostic, and the descriptions are fairly technical, just what's easily available in free databases. Some of the information is inaccurate, or at the very least imprecise (like claiming that Rusophycus is recognised in rocks from the Cambrian up to the present, or having incomplete occurrence data).

The design is not especially helpful, requiring users to tap through multiple times for ichnotaxa due to a poorly imagined plan to categorise them like other taxonomic groupings. The least the developers could have done is built a dichotomous key for the limited specimens, time periods, and locations they cover, but it seems that not even that is included.

This is a free app, so an amateur paleontologist might still want to get it just to have something to look at, but don’t expect this to be a useful resource — it’s not.

Classroom teacher

I found this app accidentally while looking up photos of fossils and loved it immediately. I found it easy to navigate with very nice photos. It was fun to explore and I feel I will be useful in my classroom. I plan on using it on a field trip I am planning. Thanks to the creators for a new, useful tool for teachers.

Good for quick IDs

The browse feature allows users to see the full set of species for each taxon in the three time periods. This makes a nice, quick way to navigate and identify specimens without working through the hierarchy. Good images and nice map feature for the focal areas.

Digital Atlas Ancient Life
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This app is designed for both iPhone and iPad
  • Free
  • Category: Reference
  • Released:
  • Version: 1.0
  • Size: 403 MB
  • Language: English
  • Seller:

Compatibility: Requires iOS 8.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Customer Ratings

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