The discovery of soft-bodied fossils at sites such as the Burgess Shale in Canada and Chengjiang in China have revealed that a remarkable diversity of animals evolved in the oceans more than 500 million years ago.
This lecture will provide a personal perspective, considering why exceptionally preserved fossils are well represented in Cambrian compared to later Palaeozoic rocks and what they tell us about the evolution of marine life. New discoveries have shown that relatives of some unusual Cambrian animals, including the giant Anomalocaris, persisted beyond the Cambrian only to go extinct later in the Palaeozoic. At the same time the Cambrian explosion established the major animal groups that inhabit the oceans of today in more familiar form.
Derek Briggs is G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Yale University.
A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin and the University of Cambridge he moved to Yale in 2003 from the University of Bristol in the UK. He is a former Director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. His research explores the evolutionary significance of exceptionally preserved fossils including the Cambrian Burgess Shale and the Ordovician Fezouata formations of Morocco. He uses laboratory experiments, coupled with analyses of specimens, to determine how soft tissues are fossilized through replication by minerals and the diagenesis of organic cuticles. He has contributed to discoveries on fossil groups of various ages ranging from the vertebrate affinity of conodonts to the colour of feathered dinosaurs.
Please note, this lecture will not be suitable for young children, but is suitable for adults and young people – beginners and experts welcome!
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