Evolutionary Palaeobiology

Module code: GL4108
Pre-requisites:GL2107

Fossils are invaluable to geologists, and by now you will have had the chance to study their classification, preservation, and wider geological applications. In this module, we will focus on the unique role that fossils play in illuminating the evolutionary process itself.

We will take an integrative approach, drawing together the latest insights from modern biology as well as palaeobiology to answer big questions about the evolution of life over geological timescales. In particular, we will take a critical look at some major hypotheses surrounding the Cambrian explosion, the diversity of life, and macroevolution.

Topics covered

  • The theory and practice of phylogenetic reconstruction
  • The concept of the stem-group in interpreting problematic fossils
  • Microevolutionary processes leading to speciation, and how to study these in the fossil record
  • Macroevolutionary patterns and processes, such as trends in diversity, disparity and complexity
  • Modern biological approaches, including molecular phylogenies and the fundamentals of evolutionary developmental biology
  • The Cambrian ‘explosion’ and its Ediacaran prelude: a critical evaluation of the fossil record

Learning

  • 9 hours of lectures
  • 18 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 123 hours of guided independent study

Assessment

  • Exam (80%)
  • Coursework - presentation/ discussion (20%)