Life Through Time – Evolutionary Palaeontology (Week 5)

Tiktaalik roseae in the Chicago Museum

The pdf of the lecture notes for week 5 can be found here: 2013_LifeThruTime_Lect5

Classifying species

An interesting overview of fossils and the species concept can be read here.

The International Code on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) explains why Carl von Linne/Carolus Linnaeus is the type specimen of Homo sapiens here.

The Natural History Museum, meanwhile, explains the taxonomy of Neanderthals here.

An interesting debate on species identification and sexual selection in the fossil record is taking place in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and can be read here.

The origins of vertebrates

Dr Paul Willis of the Royal Insitution of Australia explains here why we are all fish.

Matt Friedman and Lauren Sallan’s recent review of 500 million years of fish evolution can be downloaded here: Friedman_Sallan2012_Fossil_fish

Gnathostomes, or jawed fish, are explained on the Tree of Life web project here.

A BBC news article on a mysterious, spiral-toothed Carboniferous fish can be found here.

On a similar note, the ‘hyper-chisel’ teeth of the silvery mole rat can be admired here. To clarify the class discussion, most rodents have teeth which keep on growing, but the mole rat is very unusual in having a shark-like conveyor belt that keeps generating new teeth.

The University of Chicago website explaining the extraordinary story of the ‘fishapod’ Tiktaalik roseae can be found here.

The origins of land plants

A University of Florida webpage on the transition of plants onto land can be read here.

The Wikipedia entry on the evolutionary history of plants is thorough, and can be read here.

A University of Aberdeen website on the flora of the Rhynie Chert can be found here.

Robert Berner’s short review of Phanerozoic oxygen levels and the importance of land plants can be read here: Berner1999_Phanerozoic_oxygen

An article explaining the value of fossil plants in reconstructing ancient climates can be found here.


Life Through Time – Evolutionary Palaeontology (Part 4)


The Ordovician graptolite Didymograptus murchisoni.

A pdf of the slides from class 4 can be downloaded here: 2013_LifeThruTime_Lect4

The article that suggested a link between meteorite impacts and the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event can be read here.

A post on the Ordovician Fezouata fauna of Morocco, which contains amazing ‘Cambrian’ fossils, can be read here.

What is a species? We will examine this further in class 5, but a modern overview is provided here.

A short BBC Wales film on Cwm Hirnant and the end-Ordovician extinction can be found here.

Palaeocast is an excellent new website with a series of online interviews about hot topics in palaeontology and fossils.  with the discoverers of the giant Ordovician trilobite, Isotelus rex, can be found on Palaeocast here.

Life Through Time – Evolutionary Palaeontology (Part 3)

Searching for the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary, Fortune Head, Newfoundland.

The lecture notes for the 3rd class – the Cambrian Explosion – can be downloaded here: 2013_LifeThruTime_Lect3

A University of Maryland website discussing ‘The Long Fuse of the Cambrian Explosion’ can be found here.

High-quality artist’s impressions of the weirdos of the Cambrian can be found on National Geographic here.

The fantastic Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) website about the Burgess Shale can be found here.

The equally good online guide to trilobites, by Sam Gon III, can be found here.

A good Wikipedia entry on the problematical early Cambrian fossils called halkieriids is here.

The amazing fossils of Chengjiang, China, are revealed on their UNESCO World Heritage page here.

The 2010 paper by Jean Vannier and colleagues, discussing the possibility that priapulid worms were the makers of the first Cambrian burrows, can be downloaded here: Vannier_etal2010_priapulid_PC


Of Fossils And Fracking – further reading


Further to the talk I gave on UK shale gas at the University of York, here are some links that might be of interest.

TNO, the Dutch geological survey, has issued a “European Shale Gas Argument Map” addressing the pros and cons. You can find it here.

Shale Gas, the Basics, by the British Geological Survey can be found here.

An excellent history of UK shale gas, written by Professor Dick Selley, can be found as a pdf here.

The head of shale gas at the British Geological Survey, Prof. Mike Stephenson, gave a talk called Fact, Fiction and Fracking, which has been turned into a very entertaining animated video. It can be found here.

SHIP: the Shale Gas Information Platform, run through Potsdam University in Germany, can be found here. They also run the more research-intensive GASH (Gas Shales in Europe) website.

The Marcellus Shale is one of the biggest shale gas plays in the US. An excellent public service website called Explore Shale has been produced about the Marcellus and the process of shale gas production. It can be found here.

Shale Gas Europe, a European resource centre for shale news and information, can be found here.

The website of the Durham University initiative ReFINE (Researching Fracking In Europe) can be found here.

The current status of the UK National Grid can be found at Gridwatch.

Further links will be added over time, so please do check back for updates.