Our earliest ancestors: Cambrian deuterostomes or just weird wonders?

  • Date

    May 4,2018

  • Time

    11:00AM - 12:00PM

  • Venue


  • Speaker

    Professor Simon Conway Morris Dept. of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Abstract: As deuterostomes ourselves we have a parochial interest in our deep ancestry but
this superphylum is also notable for its diversity of forms, ranging from star-fish to sea-squirts,
and graptolites to coelacanths. Molecular biology informs us as to their inter-relationships but
what their early history looked like and more importantly what served to link these disparate
forms depends on the fossil record. Here is the news is both good and less good. Good because
overall we have a respectable record of things like early fish, balanoglossids and so on. Less
good because a number of forms, such as the saccorhytids and vetulicolians, remain decidely
problematic. What if anything are they telling us about our deepest roots?

Simon Conway Morris FRS holds an ad hominem Chair (in Evolutionary Palaeobiology) in the
Earth Sciences Department in Cambridge University, where he is also a Fellow of St John’s
College. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990, and has received numerous
awards including, in 1998, the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London. A world expert
on the Cambrian Explosion, his research considers the constraints on evolution, and the
historical processes that lead to the emergence of biological complexity. Such work is central
to palaeobiology, but is also of significance to biologists and bio-astronomers, as well as the
wider community. He is developing wider research interests across the entire field of evolution,
including the question of animal cognition (including numerosity) and extra-terrestrial life..