search

Christian Sidor - New fossils from the center of Pangea

The second talk in the Faculty mini-symposium was by Christian Sidor of the UW and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. He talked about paleontology at a particular site in Niger, focussing mainly on what makes this site interesting and how it has changed the accepted understanding of how the world's ecosystem looked at the time of Pangea.

The site—called the Moradi Formation—contains fossils from 300 million years ago; the Permian/Carboniferous boundary. In the overall scheme of things, that places it between the appearance of the first animals and subsequent explosion of species diversity and the extinction event that preceded the emergence of the dinosaurs. The period is in general interesting because it was the time that animal body plans were becoming recognisable in the fossil record, so it's an important era for the understanding of how the big animal families evolved.

However, the particular interest of this site stems from its location. Apparently the other major finds of fossils of similar age were in South Africa and the Urals. Considering the locations of modern regions relative to the outlines on Wikipedia's Pangea map shows that these sites were quite far apart, whilst Niger (in the southwestern Sahara) is roughly in the middle. Sidor also pointed that the other two sites are thought to have had a similar climate, while the Niger one would have been significantly hotter and more arid at the time the fossils were deposited.

This is important because the fossils found at the other two sites are very much like each other, so before the Niger site was examined researchers had assumed that the resident fauna were closely related and able to migrate freely between those two points. The Niger finds suggest that things were not this simple, because the fossils found here were radically different. If, as this implies, the animals that left fossils in South Africa and the Urals were not able to survive in the area in between, this suggests that they were not panmictic, but instead evidence of convergent evolution.

Trackbacks

Trackback URL for this entry is: http://blog.case.edu/exg39/mt-tb.cgi/10437 UW Biology - Faculty mini-symposium
Excerpt: The University of Washington Biology Department kicked off the new academic year's seminar series with a Faculty mini-symposium. This consisted of 4 departmental faculty taking 15 minutes each to present their current research; four talks for the price...
Weblog: Eldan Goldenberg's lab notebook
Tracked: October 19, 2006 07:15 PM UW Biology - Faculty mini-symposium
Excerpt: The University of Washington Biology Department kicked off the new academic year's seminar series with a Faculty mini-symposium. This consisted of 4 departmental faculty taking 15 minutes each to present their current research; four talks for the price...
Weblog: Eldan Goldenberg's lab notebook
Tracked: October 19, 2006 07:16 PM UW Biology - Faculty mini-symposium
Excerpt: The University of Washington Biology Department kicked off the new academic year's seminar series with a Faculty mini-symposium. This consisted of 4 departmental faculty taking 15 minutes each to present their current research; four talks for the price...
Weblog: Eldan Goldenberg's lab notebook
Tracked: October 19, 2006 07:18 PM

Comments

Post a comment