Animals today rule the land, seas and skies, but this was not always the case.
Most major animal groups appear in the fossil record during a major evolutionary radiation event over 500 million years ago; an event that palaeontologists call the ‘Cambrian Explosion’.
However, the evolutionary origins of animals are likely to be significantly more ancient.
Approximately 700 million years ago the Earth sunk into an ice age so severe it is sometimes known as ‘Snowball Earth’. When palaeontologists initially examined the rocks deposited after the ice sheets receded, they found a variety of strange and unusual fossils which increasing evidence suggests were ancient animals.
In this talk, Dr Frankie Dunn will introduce you to these fossils - specifically to the long-extinct Rangeomorpha - to which Charnia (a genus of frond-like lifeforms from The Ediacaran Period) belongs, that appear to have lived and died in the wake of Snowball Earth.
Dr Frankie Dunn is a palaeontologist and an Early Career Research Fellow at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and Merton College. Frankie’s research focuses on the origin and early evolution of animals and particularly on fossil record of the late Ediacaran Period (approximately 570-540 million years ago). The aim of this research is to understand how animal body plans evolved in deep time, before the divergence of the living animal lineages.
Free, but must register.
Is Charnia really an animal?
Charnia may look like a plant, but new research is providing definitive evidence that it was an animal. It is a key species of the Ediacaran period – one of the oldest, widest-ranging, and geologically longest-lived – and often appears in varying sizes in the same location. Find out more.