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Seasonal Arctic summer ice extent still hard to forecast.

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GEOL1003 History of Life



To discuss the development of life on Earth and the way in which life and the physical environment have interacted through 3,800 million years of Earth history. To describe the formation of the solar system, the origins of life on Earth, and the development of life and the planet through the Precambrian and Phanerozoic. To introduce all aspects of palaeontology - palaeobiology, biostratigraphy, evolution, palaeoecology and taxonomy.


  • Understanding of the interactions between the biosphere and the physical environment through geological time;
  • Recognition & description of fossils;
  • Knowledge and practical application of palaeontological techniques in the Geological Sciences, specifically in biostratigraphy, palaeoenvironmental analyses and evolutionary studies;
  • Knowledge of the biology, classification and geological history of all major fossil groups.


Topics studied in lectures and practicals include:

  • what is palaeontology?
  • classification and evolution;
  • the origin of life;
  • the early history of life;
  • the Cambrian explosion;
  • life in the Palaeozoic - arthropods;
  • reef forming organisms;
  • introduction to palaeoecology;
  • reef fossils and palaeoecology;
  • brachiopods and bivalves;
  • cephalopods and palaeobiogeography;
  • graptolites and conodonts;
  • invasion of the land I - plants/palynology;
  • vertebrates and invasion of the land II;
  • echinoderms;
  • dinosaurs;
  • mass extinctions;
  • mammals;
  • the rise of humans.

Practical work will include the description and classification of major invertebrate fossil groups, and the manipulation and application of palaeontological data.

Title History of Life
UG Code GEOL1003
Coordinator Prof. Paul Bown
Other Contributors  
Term 2
Credit 0.5 CU
Written Exam 80% (2 Hrs unseen)
Coursework 20% (2 pieces worth 10% each)
Pre-Requisites Geol1013, or at least one A Level out of Biology, Geology or Geography
Maths & Stats Content and Requirement General GCSE-level (or equivalent) knowledge of maths
Total Number of Hours of Student Work 188 hours
Hours of Lectures/Seminars 20 hours
Hours of Practicals/Problem Classes 20 hours
Hours of Tutorials 0
Days of Fieldwork 0
Other None

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