'Something ate my fossil' - from anecdote to testing hypotheses
  • Upper Lecture Theatre, Sherwell Centre, Plymouth University

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The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences organises a regular series of research seminars throughout the academic year to which everyone is welcome to attend. Speakers - both external and internal to the University - will talk on topics related to all aspects of Earth Sciences.

Today's speaker is Dr Liz Harper from the University of Cambridge.

Predation, along with competition, is thought to play a major role on structuring modern marine communities. It has frequently been cited as a driving force in evolution, for example in explaining the rise of particular traits (e.g. life habits, morphologies or behaviours) perceived as defensive adaptations. But these familiar tales may be difficult to test in the fossil record.

Palaeoecologists are familiar with recognising particular trace fossils as evidence of predation in the fossil record. But how can we turn interesting fossils with an interesting story to tell into a source of plentiful robust data with which to test evolutionary hypotheses and to generate new ones? Our challenge is to capture natural variability and to disentangle the muddle left by time and space averaging in order to be able to dove-tail palaeontological data with those produced by neontological studies.

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