Fossils solve mystery of how life moved onto land

A collection of Scottish fossils which solve the mystery of how vertebrate life came to move from water to land will be displayed in a new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland entitled Fossil Hunters: Unearthing the Mystery of Life on Land running from Friday 19 February - Sunday 14 August 2016.

The project, which is led by the University of Cambridge, includes researchers from a number of institutions including Leicester, who investigated the environmental, depositional and climatic context of this critical transition in Earth history some 360 million years ago.

The groundbreaking finds from the rocks exposed in the Scottish Borders fill a major gap in our understanding of evolution.

Sarah Davies, Professor of Sedimentology from the Department of Geology, said: “This has been a really exciting project because it has brought together researchers interested in all aspects of the palaeontology and geology of these fascinating rocks. The team at Leicester are working to reconstruct the environments that existed in the deep geological past, revealing why this part of Britain hosts such an incredible record of the first land vertebrates.”  

Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to discover how amphibians took their first steps on to land and why this is such an important milestone in the evolutionary timeline. They will also be able to find out about the techniques used to unearth the fossils and what the extensive analysis of the finds tell us about life on land before the dinosaurs.

The research team from the University of Leicester’s Department of Geology included Professor Sarah Davies, Dr Carys Bennett and research assistant Janet Sherwin.