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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - The Earth 500 million years ago: analyzing large-scale spatial and temporal palaeontological questions

20th October 2016, 17:30 to 18:30, Ustinov Room, Van Mildert College, Durham University, Dr Thomas Servais (French National Centre for Scientifical Research, University of Lille)


Life on Earth is present since a few billion years, but macroscopic fossils only became abundant with the Cambrian Explosion, some 500 million years ago. After the Cambrian Explosion, the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event was arguably the most important and sustained increase of marine biodiversity in Earth’s history. During a short time span of 25 Ma, an explosion of diversity at the order, family, genus, and species level occurred. The combined effects of several geological and biological processes helped generate this radiation of life. The peak of the biodiversification correlates with unique paleogeography, featuring the greatest continental dispersal recorded during the Phanerozoic. Rapid sea-floor spreading during this time coincided with warm climates, high sea levels, and the largest tropical shelf area of the Phanerozoic. In addition, important ecological evolutionary changes took place, with the “explosion” of both zooplankton and suspension feeding organisms, possibly based on increased phytoplankton availability and high nutrient input to the oceans driven by intense volcanic activity. At about the same time, life on the continents also started to spread, with the first land plants being present on all palaeocontinents.

This lecture is free and open to all.


Details about Dr Thomas Servais

Directions to Ustinov Room, Van Mildert College

Map - Van Mildert College is denoted as building No.4

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.