This course provides training in the most important aspects of analysing evolutionary history using the fossil record (e.g. taxonomy, phylogeny, biogeography, diversity and morphometrics).
Problem-based learning forms the core teaching method, with an emphasis on student-led research.
Coordinator: Dr Sebastian Groh
Title Biodiversity and Macroevolutionary Patterns UG Code GEOL0021 Coordinator Dr Sebastian Groh Other Contributors Term 1 Credit 15 Oral Exam 20% (10 minute talk followed by 5 minutes of Q & A) Coursework
80% (three pieces of group-based research presented as 3000-5000 word reports)
Pre-Requisites GEOL0003 History of Life; GEOL0009 Vertebrate Palaeontology and Evolution is highly desirable. Maths & Stats Content and Requirement None Total Number of Hours of Student Work 188 hours Hours of Lectures/Seminars 3 1-hour seminars Hours of Practicals/Problem Classes 20 hours Hours of Tutorials 0 Days of Fieldwork 0
Explanation of the techniques used to construct and test evolutionary trees; Use of such trees to study fossil record quality, biodiversity, biogeographic history, morphological evolution, mass extinctions etc; A series of case studies illustrating the application of the above methods to real data (microfossils, invertebrates, vertebrates).
The aims are to provide students with:
- A working knowledge of how phylogenetic trees are constructed, and the strengths and weaknesses of analytical methods;
- An understanding of the role of phylogenetic trees in palaeontological research (e.g. functional morphology, biodiversity, biogeography etc.);
- Non-phylogenetic approaches to macroevolutionary pattern reconstruction (e.g. taxic diversity estimation, morphometrics);
- A clear appreciation of the history of life during the Phanerozoic, especially with regard to large-scale macroevolutionary patterns such as mass extinction events and the impact of geological/climatic change on organismal distributions.
A problem-oriented teaching approach will allow students to ask questions about the evolutionary history of a group of their choosing, and then attempt to answer such questions using the methods discussed in the course.
By the end of the course, students should:
- Be able to build phylogenetic trees and use them as part of their palaeontological research;
- Be able to select the appropriate methods and statistical tests for a particular palaeontological analysis.
- Have an appreciation of current methodological problems and controversies relating to evolutionary history;
- Be able to describe key evolutionary events that occurred during the Phanerozoic and discuss the competing explanations for such events.
- Write a report summarizing our current state of knowledge of the evolution of a selected group of organisms, the quality of its fossil record, and what research needs to be carried out in the near future.