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The Cambrian Explosion and the evolution of animal body plans

- Dinner starts at 7:00 pm.
- The evening's presentation begins around 7:45.
- Seating will be on a first-come-first-served basis.
- The capacity of the venue is 80 people.
- We expect a turnout of around 60% of day-of RSVPs.
- Refer to our Open Seating Policy for details.
- There is a $3 contribution requested from non-students.

The Cambrian Explosion and the evolution of animal body plans
Or why you don't look like a fish, a snail or a seastar.

Bradley Deline, Assistant Professor
Department of Geosciences
University of West Georgia.

A weird evolutionary wonder from the Cambrian Burgess Shale, Opabinia. Reconstruction by N. Tamura

The Cambrian explosion is one of the most pivotal events in the history of life on Earth. This half billion year old event represents the first appearance of most animal phyla in the fossil record and also has many examples of weird and long extinct evolutionary experiments. It has been suggested that the Cambrian explosion represents a higher diversity in body types and features than those present today, even though it has a dramatically lower biodiversity. However, this hypothesis has yet to be tested, given the difficulties in putting a number on differences in shape between animals.

Understanding and quantifying the differences in animal body plans can help to address some fundamental scientific questions about the history of life on Earth: Is the peak in the diversity of form during the Cambrian? Are the Cambrian weird wonders actually weird? When did new body forms originate and what facilitated their evolution? Why do bugs and vertebrates rule the earth? Finally, what are the mechanisms causing the evolution of new body forms? In other words, what causes us to look different from a fish, snail, or seastar?

About Brad
Brad Deline is an assistant professor in the Geosciences Department at the University of West Georgia. His research focuses on exploring trends in morphology through time with a focus on the Early Paleozoic and Echinoderms (seastars and their relatives).

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  • bill

    Very interesting talk on ferriting out the driving forces of the Cambrian explosion through a mathmatical mapping of diverging philam. The Cambrian explosion was the start of complex organisms, and represented a quantum leap in evolution. Understanding the mechanisms involved is realy key to understanding where we came from.

    2 · April 29, 2014

  • LauraD

    The topic presented was pretty narrow. More about a technique for looking at evolution than about conclusions or new, breakthrough information. But, the speaker was lively and energetic. His enthusiasm was infectious.

    3 · April 27, 2014

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