Major Events in the History of Life

Module code: GL2107

Module co-ordinator: Professor Sarah Gabbott

Our understanding of the evolution of life on our planet is derived from evidence from living and extinct organisms. In this module we will explore and critically evaluate the wealth of evidence on how life has evolved, with particular emphasis on data provided by the fossil record.

We will interpret major evolutionary events by reading, translating, and understanding the fossil record. We will explore how function can be interpreted from form, how species are identified, and how the ecology of fossils may be reconstructed.

(Image: A remarkably preserved fossil lamprey from the Carboniferous showing preservation of the eyes, oral sucker disc and stripes. The correct anatomical interpretation of such fossils allows us to more accurately reconstruct the evolution of life and interpret the ecology of ancient creatures. [credit: Sarah Gabbott])

Topics covered

  • The Cambrian evolutionary radiation
  • The End-Permian mass extinction event
  • The evolution of 'limbs from fins' and terrestrialisation
  • The evolution of hominins and conscientiousness