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Department of Mathematical Sciences

Seminar Archives

On this page you can find information about seminars in this and previous academic years, where available on the database.

Statistics Seminars: From Fossil to Phylogeny: Reconstructing evolutionary history from the palaeontological record

Presented by Martin Smith, Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University

2 November 2015 14:00 in CM221

The footprints of evolutionary history are written into the DNA of every living thing, and are impressed into the very bedrock through the 600+ million years of fossil data. Mathematical models and techniques are essential in the analysis of this often tortuous data, and provide a route to recovering the pathway of evolution and thus establishing the branches of the tree of life.

Here I will provide an overview of the principal methods employed in phylogenetics – the inference of evolutionary history. In contrast to the relatively mature techniques available for molecular data, morphological phylogenetics remains relatively unexplored – even though fossils, lacking DNA, can only be interpreted in a morphological framework. I will introduce some of the challenges facing morphological analysis today, and suggest a roadmap to a more sophisticated and mathematically meaningful approach, exploring what is needed to bring the untapped potential of the palaeontological record to bear on the history of life on Earth.

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