Using Ecology to Unlock the Secrets of Ediacaran Evolution
Tuesday, Sept. 5, 7-8 p.m.
Johnson Geo Centre
Public Talk: Dr. Emily Mitchell
The sudden appearance of animals in the fossil record during the Ediacaran time period, after billions of years of microbial life, is one of the most important events in the history of life on Earth. Studying Ediacaran evolution is fraught with difficulties due to the uniqueness of Ediacaran anatomies, which lack clear modern counterparts. However, the preservation of Ediacaran fossils is exceptional, with thousands of organisms preserved where they lived. This exceptional preservation means that we can use a suite of ecological methodologies, normally only used on living communities to understand the ecology and evolution of the first animals. In order to map out these Ediacaran communities, we laser-scanned hundreds of square meters of Ediacaran bedding planes to capture over 20,000 fossils in situ across Newfoundland. We have started to tease apart Ediacaran evolutionary dynamics, revealing how Ediacaran dynamics shifted from a relatively random start, dominated by asexual reproduction, reduced competition, and limited environmental interactions, to more complex dynamics, with strong specialization of animals and strong interactions between animals, just like today.
Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Presented by Johnson Geo Centre