The relationship between Earth and life through time
How Systems Paleobiology uses physiology as the conceptual bridge between paleobiological and geochemical data sets and provides us with a template for understanding global climate change and evaluation of the habitability of other planets.
Professor Andrew H. Knoll, Fisher Professor of Natural History,Departments of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University
Date: Tuesday June 6, 2017 at 15:00-16:00
Location: Geological Museum Auditorium, Øster Voldgade 5-7, 1350 Copenhagen K
Increasingly, paleontologists have come to appreciate that our rapidly increasing knowledge of Earth’s dynamic physical history provides a necessary context for interpreting the history of life. Physiology constitutes the proximal interface between organisms and environment. Systems paleobiology, then, uses physiology as the conceptual bridge between paleobiological and geochemical data sets. In some cases, physiological performance can be estimated directly and quantitatively from fossils – this is commonly the case for vascular plant remains. In other instances, statistical inferences about physiology can be made on the basis of phylogenetic relationships. Examples from research in paleobotany, marine micropaleontology, and invertebrate paleontology illustrate how physiological observations, experiments and models can link biological radiations and extinctions to both long term environmental trajectories and transient perturbations to the Earth system. The systems approach also provides a template for evaluating the habitability of other planets, not least the ancient surface of Mars. Expanding physiological research motivated by concerns about our environmental future provides an increasing diversity of tools for understanding the relationship between Earth and life through time. The geologic record, in turn, provides critical input to research on contemporary global change.