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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellows' Seminar - Glorious mud: the roles of clay minerals in the exceptional preservation of organic fossils

21st October 2019, 13:00 to 14:00, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Dr Sean McMahon (University of Edinburgh)


Extraordinarily well preserved fossil assemblages containing carbonaceous residues of soft tissues (eyes, guts, and other things that should have decayed!) are an invaluable source of information about the history of life on Earth. Although rare, such fossil assemblages have been found in mudstones around the world and are particularly important in reconstructing the early evolutionary history of animals. These discoveries have prompted much speculation about the role of clay–organic, clay–microbe, and clay–tissue interactions in processes of fossilization. In this seminar, Dr McMahon will discuss recent ideas about the roles of clay minerals in preserving organic fossils, and the need for interdisciplinary attention to this problem, which also has implications for our understanding of Earth’s carbon cycle and our prospects of finding life on Mars.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues or students interested in attending a seminar should register online in advance to reserve a place. Places will be confirmed within 48 hours of receipt (subject to availability). Alternatively please contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

Contact for more information about this event.