The First Record: The Oldest Fossils (September 10-14)

Hard to believe we’re already in the fourth week. We will begin with continued discussions of origins, especially hypotheses about the origin of life. Please be sure to look at the links listed for last week on this topic. We will also examine the earliest fossil record, which goes back at least 3.5 billion years. Rhode Island College has a nice page on the six kingdoms of life, which makes a good start. For an updated summary (and way more than we can cover) the Wikipedia page on the evolutionary history of life is very good. Our whole course in one page! Just read the first parts relevant to this topic for now. Here is a good article on the oldest fossils we know thus far (in the traditional meaning of fossils).

Your first lecture examination is on Friday, September 21. For preparation, I’m giving you a copy of the Fall 2017 student HOL test #1 answers as a pdf. I highly recommend reading it through. The student answers are not necessarily the best, but they were good enough to receive full credit. Also note that there are always topics we covered in the past that we may not have done this semester, and vice versa. You will be tested over only what we have completed in class through Monday, September 17. Test seating: Students with last names starting with A through L in Room 205 (our regular room); M-Z in Room 216 (across the lobby). Test doors open at 7:50 a.m.; all tests due at 8:50 a.m.

Trace fossils from the Gog Formation (Middle Cambrian), Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada.

Geology in the News –

Here is a brand new study on the evolutionary origins of animal diversity. “Our results show that fundamental evolutionary change was not limited to an early burst of evolutionary experimentation. Animal designs have continued to evolve to the present day—not gradually as Darwin predicted—but in fits and starts, episodically through their evolutionary history.”

New coral reefs have been found in deep water off the coast of South Carolina. Note these are in dark waters, unlike the far more common shallow-water coral reefs. These discoveries are important for our calculations of the oceanic carbon budget, among other things.

New evidence suggests that climate changes may have led to the disappearance of our Neandertal cousins about 40,000 years ago. There’s a lesson here!

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