The Palaeobiology and Biodiversity Research Group (PBRG) in Bristol uses the fossil record to study the history of life and how ancient organisms lived.
Major questions that guide our work concern the origins of biodiversity and global change. These questions combine analyses of palaeodiversity and the quality of the fossil record, engineering approaches to function in ancient organisms, the evolution of novel traits, and the relative roles of intrinsic and extrinsic drivers of macroevolution. A growing focus is on phylogenomics, the search for evolutionary relationships in the tree of life and the mapping of trait evolution linked to gene function.
The group has pioneered many research and educational initiatives. The Bristol Dinosaur Project focuses research on the Late Triassic prosauropod dinosaur Thecodontosaurus, the oldest plant-eating dinosaur. The work is yielding new information on the early evolution of dinosaurs, and it is the subject of a major educational initiative, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
From the beginning of 2013, we are proud to present our new logo, representing the combination of research interests explored by the palaeobiologists in Bristol. For members of the group, email Mike Benton for access to the logo in various formats.
Invitation: If you are interested in joining our group, follow this link.
| News from the Palaeontology Research Group
| || May 2013 - Unexpected effects of ocean acidification on deep-sea organisms |
About 55.5 million years ago, geologically rapid emission of a large volume of greenhouse gases at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary (PETM) led to global warming of about 5oC, severe ocean acidification, and widespread extinction of foraminifera. Dr Laura Foster and Dr Dani Schmidt of the School of Earth Sciences, together with visiting professor Ellen Thomas from Yale University, have shown that survivors of the extinction increased the thickness of their shells during ocean acidification, with organisms living buried within the sediment able to survive better than forms living on the sediment surface. Read more...
| || May 2013 - Fossil brain teaser |
Stephan Lautenschlager from Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, together with Tom Hübner from the Niedersächsische Landesmuseum in Hannover, Germany, studied the reconstructed brain of the Jurassic dinosaur Dysalotosaurus lettowvorbecki in two specimens, a very young (juvenile) individual of approximately three years of age and a fully grown specimen of more than 12 years of age. The brain underwent considerable changes during growth - most likely as a response to environmental and metabolic requirements. Read more...
| || May 2013 - Cooling ocean temperature could buy more time for coral reefs |
Limiting the amount of warming experienced by the world's oceans in the future could buy some time for tropical coral reefs. The study, published by the journal Geophysical Research Letters, used computer models to investigate how shallow-water tropical coral reef habitats may respond to climate change over the coming decades. Dr Elena Couce and colleagues found that restricting greenhouse warming to three watts per square metre is needed in order to avoid large-scale reductions in reef habitat occurring in the future. Read more...
| || March 2013 - How do we know what colour dinosaur feathers were? |
An international research team, led by Dr Maria McNamara from the School of Earth Sciences, has shown that the original colour of fossil feathers may have been tainted by the extreme geological processes deep below the earth's surface. The results, published in the journal Biology Letters, suggest that some previous reconstructions may be flawed. Melanosomes, the organelles in feathers that contain melanin and so give some feather colours, may change shape subtly after burial. Because melanosome shape is a guide to the original colour of a feather, this could affect assumptions. Read more...
| || February 2013 - Palaeontologists reveal insects' colourful past |
An international research team led by Dr Maria McNamara has explained the preservation of colours in fossil insects for the first time. The paper has just been published online in the journal Geology. The research will also be showcased at this year's prestigious Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London, from 1 to 7 July. The study used a novel experimental technique to simulate high pressures and temperatures that are found deep under the Earth's surface, and so the researchers could follow colour change and colour loss during mock fossilisation conditions. Read more...
| || February 2013 - Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit award to Phil Donoghue |
The Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit scheme aims to provide universities with additional support to enable them to attract science talent from overseas and retain respected UK scientists of outstanding achievement and potential. Professor Donoghue receives the award for his work in the emerging field of molecular paleobiology. Professor Donoghue sees this as an opportunity for palaeontologists to integrate molecular biology's dataset, techniques and experimental approach with the insight into events in Deep Time that palaeontology uniquely provides. Read more...
| || January 2013 - New research highlights influence of intraspecific variability on biodiversity studies |
A study of around 100 newly collected specimens of early ammonoids suggests that the number of species they belong to might have been over-estimated. Dr Kenneth De Baets of the University of Bristol, with Dr Christian Klug (University of Zürich) and Dr Claude Monnet (University of Lille), studied the intraspecific variability through ontogeny (development of an organism) in early ammonoids, which has rarely been attempted before. Ammonoids are ideal for this type of study as they hold a record of growth from embryo to adult in their accretionary shell. Read more...
| || January 2013 - Multicellularity, a key event in the evolution of life |
Multicellularity in cyanobacteria originated before 2.4 billion years ago and is associated with the accumulation of atmospheric oxygen, subsequently enabling the evolution of aerobic life, as we know it today, according to a new study from the University of Zurich involving researchers now at the University of Bristol, and Gothenburg. The research, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, applied phylogenetic tree reconstruction methods to the study of oxygen-producing bacteria, so-called cyanobacteria. Read more...
| || January 2013 - A citation classic in molecular evolution |
In a survey of papers published in the leading journal 'Molecular Biology & Evolution' from 1983 to the present day, a paper by Mike Benton and Phil Donoghue (Paleontological evidence to date the tree of life), published in 2007, has been identified as one of the 1% most cited papers ever from that journal, a 'citation classic', with nearly 400 citations in six years. The paper presented a new rationale for ensuring phylogenetic trees are correctly dated, focusing on exact phylogenetic placement of calibration fossils and use of appropriate, asymmetric probability distributions on their ages. Read more...
| || January 2013 - Dr Jakob Vinther awarded Hodson Prize |
Dr Jakob Vinther of both the School of Earth Sciences and the School of Biological Sciences has been awarded The Hodson Prize Fund by the Palaeontological Association at its Annual Meeting in Dublin in late December. The Association is one of the world's leading professional societies of palaeontologists and The Hodson Fund is awarded to a palaeontologist under the age of 35 and who has made a notable early contribution to the science. The award honours Jakob's work on origins of basal groups of animals and on colour in fossils, including dinosaur feathers. Read more...
| || December 2012 - Inside the head of a dinosaur |
A new study of the brain anatomy of therizinosaurs, plant-eating Cretaceous theropod dinosaurs, has revealed interesting links with their meat-eating relatives. A team from Bristol and Ohio, including PhD student Stephan Lautenschlager and Dr Emily Rayfield of the University of Bristol, found that the senses of smell, hearing and balance were well developed in therizinosaurs and might have affected or benefited from an enlarged forebrain. These findings came as a surprise as exceptional sensory abilities would be expected from predatory and not necessarily from plant-eating animals. Read more...
| || December 2012 - Bringing fossils to life |
A new way to learn about ancient life that harnesses some of the cutting edge techniques used by palaeontologists to study fossils, is being pioneered by researchers at the University of Bristol. CT scanning and 3D printing allow palaeontologists to see fossils in ways they never could before, to study delicate bones and other ancient remains in great detail without destroying the precious specimens themselves. Now Dr Imran Rahman has brought these marvels of 'virtual palaeontology' to the public in an exhibition in Birmingham, and in an article in Evolution: Education and Outreach. Read more...
| || November 2012 - New evidence of dinosaurs' role in the evolution of bird flight |
A new study looking at the structure of feathers in bird-like dinosaurs has shed light on one of nature's most remarkable inventions - how flight might have evolved. Academics at the Universities of Bristol, Yale and Calgary have shown that prehistoric birds had a much more primitive version of the wings we see today, with rigid layers of feathers acting as simple airfoils for gliding. Close examination of the earliest theropod dinosaurs suggests that feathers were initially developed for insulation, arranged in multiple layers to preserve heat, before their shape evolved for display and camouflage. Read more...
| || November 2012 - Best PhD thesis in Faculty |
Congratulations to Dr Jen Bright, now a postdoc in the PBRG. She has just been awarded the Science Faculty prize for the best PhD thesis from the Faculty in 2012. Her thesis, entitled 'Validation of finite element models and the implications for palaeontology' focuses on ground-truthing finite element analytical techniques. Her thesis has yielded four published papers and she is currently a postdoc in Bristol. Jen is one of three palaeobiology PhD candidates to be awarded a Faculty commendation in 2012.
| || October 2012 - New study sheds light on how and when vision evolved |
Opsins, the light-sensitive proteins that are key to vision, may have evolved earlier and undergone fewer genetic changes than previously believed, according to a new study from the National University of Ireland Maynooth and the University of Bristol published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr Davide Pisani of Bristol's Schools of Biological Sciences and Earth Sciences and colleagues at NUI Maynooth performed a computational analysis to test every hypothesis of opsin evolution proposed to date. Read more...
| || September 2012 - The evolutionary origins of our pretty smile |
It takes both teeth and jaws to make a smile, but the evolutionary origins of these parts of our anatomy have only just been discovered, thanks to a particle accelerator and a long dead fish. All living jawed vertebrates have teeth, but it has long been thought that the first jawed vertebrates lacked them, instead capturing prey with gruesome scissor-like jaw-bones. However new research, led by the University of Bristol and published today in Nature, shows that these earliest jawed vertebrates possessed teeth too indicating that teeth evolved along with, or soon after, the evolution of jaws. Read more...
| || September 2012 - Visit to the home of the Bristol dinosaur |
Visitors to the village of Tytherington where specimens of the West's very own dinosaur, Thecodontosaurus, were discovered in the 1970s, had the chance to learn more about this amazing local resident on Wednesday 31 October as part of South Gloucestershire's Discover Festival. Discover Dinosaur Day! included hands on activities to find out how Thecodontosaurus - also known as the Bristol Dinosaur as the first specimens were found in Bristol in 1834 - lived 210 million years ago. The event is organised by the Bristol Dinosaur Project at the University of Bristol. Read more...
| || September 2012 - Palaeobiology's 250th MSc graduate sparks first reunion |
The University of Bristol's Palaeobiology and Biodiversity Research Group is celebrating the fact that 250 students have now completed its MSc in Palaeobiology, with its first reunion event for former and current Bristol palaeobiologists. The reunion weekend was a chance to welcome new members of staff, Dr Davide Pisani and Dr Jakob Vinther, and included talks from staff, students, and alumni, a CPD programme of new numerical methods, a tour and display, and a field trip. Liz Martin from Canada (left) was the 250th student to complete the MSc in Palaeobiology. Read more...
| || September 2012 - Palaeontology student receives prestigious Fulbright award |
Rachel Frigot, who has just finished the MSc in Palaeobiology programme for 2011-2, has received a Fulbright Award to enable her to study at Johns Hopkins University in the US on one of the most prestigious and selective scholarship programmes operating world-wide. Created by treaty in 1948, the US-UK Fulbright Commission offers awards for study or research in any field, at any accredited US or UK university. Rachel funded her Masters studies in Bristol over the past two years by working as a science tutor for A-level students. Read more...
| || July 2012 - Engineering technology reveals eating habits of giant dinosaurs |
High-tech technology, usually used to design racing cars and aeroplanes, has helped researchers to understand how plant-eating dinosaurs fed 150 million years ago. A team of international researchers, led by Dr Emily Rayfield from the University of Bristol and Dr Paul Barrett from the Natural History Museum, used CT scans and biomechanical modelling to show that Diplodocus - one of the largest dinosaurs ever - had a skull adapted to strip leaves from tree branches. This research was rated number 77 out of the 100 top science stories of 2012 by Discover magazine. Read more...
| || July 2012 - Skulls shed new light on the evolution of the cat |
Modern cats diverged in skull shape from their sabre-toothed ancestors early in their history and then followed separate evolutionary trajectories, according to new research published today in PLoS ONE. The study also found that the separation between modern domestic cats and big cats such as lions and tigers is also deeply rooted. Dr Manabu Sakamoto and Dr Marcello Ruta applied a range of numerical morphometric tools to explore the evolution of skull shape of extinct sabre-toothed cats, modern (conical-toothed) cats and prehistoric 'basal' cats (ancestors of modern cats). Read more...
| || May 2012 - Ten million years to recover from mass extinction |
some 10 million years for Earth to recover from the greatest mass extinction of all time,
latest research has revealed. Life was nearly wiped out 250 million years ago, with only
10 per cent of plants and animals surviving. Recent evidence for a rapid
bounce-back is evaluated in a new review article by Dr Zhong-Qiang Chen, from the China
University of Geosciences in Wuhan, and Professor Michael Benton from the University of
Bristol. They find that recovery from the crisis lasted some 10 million years, as
explained today in Nature Geoscience. Read more...
| || May 2012 - Pliosaur with a gammy jaw |
Imagine having arthritis in your
jaw bones... if they're over 2 metres long! A new study by scientists at the University of
Bristol has found signs of a degenerative condition similar to human arthritis in the jaw
of a pliosaur. Such a disease has never been described before in fossilised Jurassic reptiles. The animal is the pliosaur Pliosaurus from the Upper Jurassic of Westbury, Wiltshire, and the new paper, published today in Palaeontology is the core of Judyth Sassoon's research thesis which she completed while studying for the Bristol MSc in Palaeobiology. Read more...
| || April 2012 - Former MSc student publishes the textbook |
Brusatte, who completed the MSc in Palaeobiology in Bristol in 2007, and went on to
work for his PhD at the American Museum of Natural History, has just published the most
authoritative and up-to-date textbook on dinosaurs, with the title Dinosaur
Paleobiology. This is the first in a new series of advanced palaeontological books aimed at researchers and reflecting the latest advances in the field, published worldwide by Wiley-Blackwell, and edited by Mike Benton from the Bristol group. A further 15 titles are commissioned and will appear in the next few years. Read more...
| || March 2012 - Just so: Scientists name Dorset crocodile after Kipling |
superbly preserved 130-million-year-old crocodile skull, discovered at Swanage in Dorset
in 2009, has been described as belonging to a species new to science in a paper by
researchers at the University of Bristol. The specimen has been given the name
Goniopholis kiplingi after Rudyard Kipling, author of The Just So Stories, in
recognition of his enthusiasm for the natural sciences. The skull was discovered in April
2009 by Richard Edmonds, Earth Science Manager with the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site
Team, in the course of regular site monitoring. Read more...
| || March 2012 - Size isn't everything - it's how sharp you are |
teeth of a long-extinct vertebrate - with tips only two micrometres across: one twentieth
the width of a human hair - are the sharpest dental structures ever measured, new research
from the University of Bristol and Monash University, Australia has found. David Jones led
a study of conodont function, working with 3D models reconstructed from micro-CT scans,
and showed they were the sharpest biological structures ever - they overcome the
limitations of their tiny size by achieving exceptional sharpness. Read more...
| || March 2012 - The cutting edge: Exploring the efficiency of bladed tooth
Using a combination of guillotine-based experiments and cutting-edge
computer modelling, Phil Anderson and Emily Rayfield, researchers at the University of
Bristol have explored the most efficient ways for teeth to slice food. Their results,
published today in Journal of the Royal Society Interface, show just how precisely
the shape of an animal's teeth is optimized to suit the type of food it eats. They use the engineering technique Finite Element Analysis to mimic the experiments, and it turns out that different shaped bladed teeth are optimized for different types of food.. Read more...
| || March 2012 - The
history of ocean acidification |
Current rates of ocean acidification are
unparalleled in Earth's history, according to new research from an international team of
scientists which compiled all the evidence of global warming and acidifying oceans from
the past 300 million years. Dani Schmidt, a member of the 22-strong team, comments
'Laboratory experiments can tell us about how individual marine organisms react, but the
geological record is a real time experiment involving the entire ocean. In order to learn about the future, the researchers looked to the past, reviewing climate events over the past 300 million years. Read more...
| || February 2012 - Public invited to draw
the Bristol dinosaur |
Bristol's own dinosaur, Thecodontosaurus, is
now the subject of a competition. The public now have the chance to draw what they think
it really looked like as part of an illustration competition run by the Bristol Dinosaur
Project at the University of Bristol. Discovered in 1834 near Bristol Zoo, Clifton, the
Bristol dinosaur was only the fourth dinosaur ever discovered in the world. Ideas about
what the dinosaur looked like are changing all the time as paleontologists find out more
about its bones which are held at the University and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. Read more...
| || February 2012 - Mouse to elephant? Just
wait 24 million generations |
Scientists have for the first time measured how
fast large-scale evolution can occur in mammals, showing it takes 24 million generations
for a mouse-sized animal to evolve to the size of an elephant. Research published today in
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA describes increases and
decreases in mammal body size following the extinction of the dinosaurs. An international team, including Dr David Jones, discovered that rates of size decrease are much faster than growth rates. It takes only 100,000 generations for very large decreases, leading to
dwarfism, to occur. Read more...
| || December 2011 - Chinese fossils shed
light on the origin of animals from single-celled ancestors |
Evidence of the
single-celled ancestors of animals has been discovered in 570 million-year-old rocks from
South China by researchers from the University of Bristol, the Swedish Museum of Natural
History, the Paul Scherrer Institut and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences. This
X-ray microscopy revealed that the fossils had features that multicellular embryos do not,
and this led the researchers to the conclusion that the fossils were neither animals nor
embryos but rather the reproductive spore bodies of single-celled ancestors of animals. Read more...
| || August 2011 - Rocks and clocks help
unravel the mysteries of ancient Earth |
Research into the dating techniques
used to identify the origins of the living world has found that fossils and molecules
together are crucial to calibrate the Earth's evolutionary clock. PhD student Rachel
Warnock and Professor Phil Donoghue show that the shape of the probability distribution of
fossils close to a critical calibration point can alter the estimate of age profoundly.
Their work points to the need for much greater care in the future about constructing detailed estimates of the likely distributions of known and missing fossils in dating the tree of life. Read more...
| || August 2011 - Getting inside the mind (and up the nose) of our ancient
Reorganisation of the brain and sense organs could be the key to
the evolutionary success of vertebrates, one of the great puzzles in evolutionary biology,
according to a paper by Gai Zhi-kun, a Bristol PhD student, his supervisor Phil Donoghue,
and colleagues, just published in Nature. The study claims to have solved this
scientific riddle by studying the brain of a 400 million year old galeaspid, using
high energy X-rays at the Swiss Light Source. The detailed internal architecture of the specimens can be revealed for the first time using computer imaging techniques. Read more...
| || July 2011 - Fossil jaws shed new light on early vertebrate feeding
With the evolution of jaws some 420 million years ago, jawed
animals diversified rapidly into a range of niches that remained stable for the following
80 million years, despite extinctions, habitat loss and competition, say researchers from
the Universities of Bristol, Oxford and Leiden in Nature. Bristol researchers Phil Anderson and Emily Rayfield used engineering approaches to explore the dynamics of early jaw evolution, and the team found that jawed vertebrates surprisingly did not have an obvious or overwhelming advantage over those without jaws. Read more...
| || July 2011 - The
rise and rise of the flying reptiles
Pterosaurs, flying reptiles from the
time of the dinosaurs, were not driven to extinction by the birds, but in fact they
continued to diversify and innovate for millions of years afterwards. A new numerical study by Katy Prentice, completed as part of her undergraduate degree (MSci in Palaeontology and Evolution), shows that the pterosaurs evolved in a most unusual way, becoming more and more specialised through their 160 million years on Earth. The work is published today in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. Read more here and here.
| || May 2011 - Reptile 'cousins' shed new light on end-Permian extinction |
The end-Permian extinction, by far the most dramatic biological crisis to affect life on
Earth, may not have been as catastrophic for some creatures as previously thought,
according to a new study led by the University of Bristol. The team studied the
parareptiles, a diverse group of bizarre-looking terrestrial vertebrates which varied in
shape and size. The researchers found that parareptiles were not hit much harder by the
end-Permian extinction than at any other point in their 90 million-year history. Read more...
| || May 2011 - The sea dragons bounce back |
The evolution of ichthyosaurs,
important marine predators of the age of dinosaurs, was hit hard by a mass extinction
event 200 million years ago, according to a new study from the University of Bristol.
Ichthyosaurs are iconic fossils, first discovered 200 years ago by Mary Anning on the
Jurassic coast of Dorset at Lyme Regis. The new study, published in PNAS, uses
numerical methods to explore rates of evolution, diversity, and range of body morphology
through the crisis. Read more...
| || March 2011 - A night at the
museum with the Bristol dinosaur |
People of all ages will have the
opportunity to find out about Bristol's very own dinosaur, Thecodontosaurus, along
with meeting experts to learn about Bristol University's current scientific research on
fossils and dinosaurs. Dino-nite! has been organised by the Bristol Dinosaur Project, run
by the University's School of Earth Sciences, in partnership with Bristol City Museum. Read more...
| || January 2011 - Introducing
Two Bristol alumni have described a new reptile fossil and
named it in honour of their Bristol tutor, Professor Mike Benton. Bentonyx is now
an official new genus of rhynchosaur - a group of extinct reptiles that lived around 230
million years ago. Mike commented 'Bentonyx is a squat, pig-shaped animal, with a
fat belly, hooked snout, and inane grin, so I can see why they thought of me'. Read more...
| || December 2010 - Record number of scientific publications by Bristol MSc
The year 2010 has seen the the largest number of publications by
current and former Bristol Palaeobiology Masters students, totalling 20 - one 'public
understanding of science' contribution, and 19 scientific papers in journals ranging from
Science to Palaeontology, and Zoological Journal of the Linnean
Society to Biology Letters. This brings the total of original refereed
scientific papers by MSc and MSci students to 81, since the MSc began in 1996. The Bristol
Palaeobiology and Biodiversity Research group overall published a total of 80 papers in 2010, of which the
contribution by Masters students is 25 percent. Read more...
| || December 2010 - Fucheng Zhang
visits Bristol as Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor |
Zhang has won a 3-month distinguished visiting professorship position, and is in Bristol
from December to March, to continue work on the colour of the feathers of fossil birds and
dinosaurs. Fucheng's research interests cover the origin and early evolution of birds
and feathers, and the origin of avian flight. His current research themes focus on the
description of remarkable new bird fossils, including skeletons with feathers and skin, as
well as eggs, and other fossils from the astonishing Early Cretaceous fossil deposits of
the Jehol Group in NE China. Read
| || December 2010 - New fossil site in China
shows long recovery from the largest mass extinction |
A major new fossil
site in south-west China has filled in a sizeable gap in our understanding of how life on
this planet recovered from the greatest mass extinction of all time, according to a paper
co-authored by Professor Mike Benton, in the School of Earth Sciences, and published this
week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The work is led by scientists from the
Chengdu Geological Center in China. The new site, at Luoping in Yunnan Province, has
yielded 20,000 fossils, including some of the first reptiles, indicating the first
emergence of a full ecosystem, some 10 million years after the end-Permian mass
| || November 2010 - Rainforest collapse drove
reptile evolution |
Global warming devastated tropical rainforests, 300
million years ago. Now, Bristol palaeontologists Sarda Sahney, Howard Falcon-Lang (also
Royal Holloway) and Mike Benton report the unexpected discovery that this event triggered
an evolutionary burst amongst reptiles - and inadvertently paved the way for the rise of
dinosaurs, a hundred million years later. This event happened 305 Myr ago, during the
Carboniferous Period. At that time, Europe and North America lay on the equator and were
covered by steamy tropical rainforests. But when the Earth's climate became hotter and
drier, rainforests collapsed, triggering reptile evolution. Read more....
| || November 2010 - Engineer provides new insight into pterosaur flight |
Palmer, an engineer turned palaeobiology PhD student at Bristol has now shown that
pterosaurs were slower flyers than had been assumed. By a combination of model testing and
numerical calculations, he has shown that these ancient flying reptiles were significantly
less aerodynamically efficient and were capable of flying at lower speeds than previously
thought. This meant they could land at slower speeds than had been thought, and so
explains why they did not break their fragile bones more often. Read more....
| || November 2010 - Student wins
mineralized tissue prize |
Duncan Murdock, a current third year PhD
palaeobiology student, has received the 'Young Investigator Award' at the 10th
International Conference on the Chemistry and Biology of Mineralized Tissues in Arizona
for his paper on the 'Evolutionary origins of animal skeletons'. Read more....
| || November 2010 - New prize
announced for best MSc thesis |
A new prize for the best project from
students enrolled for the MSc in Palaeobiology, to be called the David Dineley Prize, has
been launched. The first award will be made in early 2011, for the best MSc thesis in the
2009-2010 cohort, as judged by the teaching staff and the external examiner for the
programme. Read more....
| || October 2010 - 'Junk DNA' uncovers the nature
of our ancient ancestors |
The key to solving one of the great puzzles in
evolutionary biology, the origin of vertebrates, has been revealed in new research from
Dartmouth College (USA) and the University of Bristol. Phil Donoghue and colleagues show,
in a study of micro RNAs, that lamprey and hagfish form a clade Cyclostomata, and they are
both equally related to the jawed vertebrates - previous orthodoxy had been that the
hagfish was closer to gnathostomes. The work is published in Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences, USA. Read more in the Nature news
| || September 2010 - Top
dinosaur hunters are worst at naming |
The more fossil species you describe,
the less likely the names are to stick. Edward Cope (left) named 64 dinosaur species, but
only 9 of his names are still in use. This is as true of prolific dinosaur namers in both
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In a study of all 321 authors who have named one
or more dinosaur species, the most successful were those who named only one, as reported
in a new paper in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology by Mike Benton. Read more in
the Nature news report.
| || August 2010 - Evolution rewritten again
and again |
Palaeontologists are forever claiming that their latest fossil
discovery will 'rewrite evolutionary history'. Is this just boasting or is our 'knowledge'
of evolution so feeble that it changes every time we find a new fossil? A team of
researchers at the University of Bristol decided to find out, with investigations of
dinosaur and human evolution. Their study suggests most fossil discoveries do not make a
huge difference, confirming, not contradicting our understanding of evolutionary history.
Read more here,
and on the Nature
and Discover websites.
| || July 2010 - Ancient reptiles 'make tracks' |
A new discovery of 318
million-year-old fossilised footprints from Eastern Canada reveals when reptiles first
conquered dry land. The footprints were discovered by Dr Howard Falcon-Lang, when he was
on the staff of this department, and were studied in collaboration with Mike Benton. They
show key features of the amniotes, reptiles and their descendants, and are older than the
oldest amniote skeletal fossils. Read more here.
| || June 2010 - First
analysis of theropod biting diversity |
A study comparing how carnivorous
dinosaurs tore through their meat has found meat eaters munched using at least four
distinct biting methods. The findings, by Dr Manabu Sakamoto, a postdoc at the University
of Bristol, appear in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Sakamoto compared 41
species of theropods, and used biomechanical models to identify the four feeding modes.
Read more here and here.
| || May 2010 - MSc student wins prize for
Nick Crumpton, who completed the MSc in Palaeobiology in Bristol in
September 2009, has just been awarded the Geologists' Association prize for one of the
best earth sciences Masters theses in the UK in 2009. Nick worked on adaptation and
morphometrics of the teeth of tiny Triassic and Jurassic mammals, and the prize was
awarded for his application of innovative numerical imaging techniques and comparisons
with analogous extant forms. Read
| || April 2010 - Former MSc students get permanent palaeontology positions |
Former students of the Bristol MSc have achieved excellent careers in palaeontology - in
museums, universities, publishing, and the media. We normally do not highlight their new
posts, but keep a list of
current jobs of former students where we can. Three have recently secured permanent
positions - Isla
Gladstone, as the new Curator of Natural Sciences at the Yorkshire Museum in York, Tai
Kubo as Curator at the Fukui Prefectural
Dinosaur Museum in Japan, and Phil Hopley as
Lecturer in Palaeoclimatology at Birkbeck College, University of London. Many
congratulations to them all!
| || March 2010 - JESBI funding
The 'Jurassic Ecosystem of Strawberry Bank,
Ilminster' project was launched on 25th March, with generous funding from the Esmée
Fairburn Foundation. The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution's museum holds a
unique spectacular collection of exceptionally preserved fossils from the late Lias of
Ilminster, Somerset, that show exquisite 3-dimensional detail, and many have soft tissues.
The funding supports essential curatorial work at the BRLSI and development of a
substantial new research programme by Bristol MSc students. Read more...
| || February 2010 - Island of dwarf
The idea of dwarf dinosaurs on Haţeg Island, Romania, was
proposed 100 years ago by the colourful Baron Franz Nopcsa, whose family owned estates in
the area. He realized that many of the Haţeg dinosaurs had close relatives in older
rocks in England, Germany, and North America, but the Romanian specimens were half the
size. In new work by Mike Benton at the University of Bristol, and six other authors from
Romania, Germany, and the United States, Nopcsa's hypothesis is tested for the first time,
using numerical methods and bone histology. Read more...
| || February 2010 - Humble algae are the key to whale evolution |
Diatoms, planktonic algae, have been key to the evolution of the diversity of whales, according
to a new study. The research by Felix Marx, a PhD student at the University of Otago in New Zealand and University of Bristol, together with Dr Mark Uhen of George Mason University in the US, is published in the journal Science. The fossil record shows that diatoms and whales rose and fell in diversity together. Whales do not eat diatoms, but the giant baleen whales feed on krill, small crustaceans that themselves feed on diatoms. Felix began this project while completing his MSci project in Bristol. Read
| || February 2010 - Ocean acidification is at fastest rate in 65 million years |
A new model, capable of assessing the rate at which the oceans are acidifying, suggests
that changes in the carbonate chemistry of the deep ocean may exceed anything seen in the
past 65 million years. The research, by Dr Andy Ridgwell (Geographical Sciences) and Dr
Daniela Schmidt (Earth Sciences) also predicts much higher rates of environmental change
at the ocean's surface, potentially exceeding the rate at which plankton can adapt. The
work is based on studies of plankton extinction through the past 100 Myr, with a focus on
the PETM. Read
| || January 2010 - Melanosomes in dinosaur feathers show their original colour
The colour of some feathers on dinosaurs and early birds has been identified for the first
time, reports a paper published in Nature this week. For example, the theropod
dinosaur Sinosauropteryx had simple bristles - precursors of feathers - in
alternate orange and white rings down its tail, and the early bird Confuciusornis
had patches of white, black, and orange-brown colouring. This research was rated number 64 out of the 100 top science stories of 2010 by Discover magazine. Read more... See and
hear Mike Benton rambling on
about the discovery, and read the interpretive web pages.
| || December 2009 - Another bumper year for publications by Bristol
The Bristol Palaeobiology & Biodiversity Research Group
published 64 papers in refereed scientific journals throughout 2009, of which 11 were by
current and former MSc and MSci
students, 17 percent of the group total. This high total emphasizes the groups efforts to encourage trainee researchers to excel. Themes range from plankton to dinosaurs, Red Queen to biomechanics. In addition, members of the group published
two books, including the major new textbook, Introduction to Paleobiology and the
Fossil Record, and other review and popular articles. Read more...
| ||December 2009 - New research resolves mystery about pterosaur flight|
the pterosaurian pteroid point forward or inward? The pteroid is a modified wrist bone
that had a role in supporting the propatagium, the front wing segment. A new study by
Colin Palmer, a PhD student in the Department, and Gareth Dyke, a Senior Lecturer at
University College Dublin (and a former Bristol student), using numerical modelling and aerodynamic calculations, shows that the pteroid could not have pointed forward, and that it had a more subtle role in varying the dimensions of the propatagium. Read
| ||November 2009 - Britain's oldest dinosaur
to be released|
After 210 million years of being entombed in rock, the
Bristol Dinosaur is about to be released, thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of
£295,000 awarded to the University of Bristol. The funding will pay for a preparator, who will work to extract the bones from the rock, and an Education Officer, who will coordinate engagement activities with the citizens of Bristol and region, both young and old. This substantial funding reflects the success of this educational and engagement project over the past ten years, and its promise for the future. Read more...
| ||October 2009 - Why giant sea scorpions
got so big|
Palaeozoic eurypterids were remarkable for their huge size. It
had been thought that these predators became ever larger in an 'arms race' with their
prey, the heavily armnoured fishes, or that their size increase was enabled by extra-high
levels of oxygen in the atmosphere at the time. New work by MSc student James Lamsdell
and Dr Simon Braddy shows that both views are correct: one eurypterid lineage became large
to prey on the armoured fishes, and the other because of enhanced oxygen. The work is
published today in Biology Letters. Read more...
| ||September 2009 - More than 1100 vertebrate palaeontologists in Bristol|
1,100 paleontologists from all over the world arrived in Bristol this week for an
international conference. For the first time since its foundation in 1940, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) is holding its annual meeting outside the Americas. The meeting was widely reported in the press, as was the inspirational lecture by Sir David
Attenborough about Wallace, Darwin, and the birds of paradise. Hot topic of the week was
of the new Jurassic dinosaur Anchiornis, the oldest feathered animal yet
reported, 5 to 10 million years older than Archaeopteryx.
| ||September 2009 - Fossil water
scorpion was ancestor of giant sweep-feeders|
New finds of a fossil water
scorpion that lived in rivers around Bristol some 370 million years ago have shown Bristol
palaeontologists what the animal looked like and how it was related to other eurypterids.
Work by Dr Simon Braddy and James Lamsdell from Bristol,and colleague Dr Erik Tetlie from
Norway, is published in the journal Palaeontology. Read
| ||September 2009 - Reptiles stood upright
after mass extinction|
Having studied fossil tracks of reptiles from below
and above the end-Permian mass extinction boundary, Prof Mike Benton and former MSc
Palaeobiology student Tai Kubo found that medium- and large-sized reptiles changed from
walking with a sprawling gait, to walking with their legs tucked under their bodies. This
happened across the crisis boundary, whereas evidence from skeletal fossils had previously
suggested the transition took some 20-30 million years, through much of the Triassic. Read more...
| ||September 2009 - No universal driver for plankton evolution|
During his MSc, Palaeobiology student Ben Kotrc analysed the relative importance of abiotic
versus biotic effect on the evolution of marine plankton. The results of the work,
supervised by Dr Daniela Schmidt
and recently published in PNAS, show that both competition with other organisms
and long term climatic changes influence evolutionary change in radiolarians. Read more...
| ||July 2009 - Glimpses of a distant past|
An international team of 14
vertebrate palaeontologists (from Australia, England, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan,
Morocco, and Slovak Republic) have joined forces to publish state-of-the-art research on
various groups of Palaeozoic and Mesozoic limbed vertebrates in a volume co-edited by Dr
Marcello Ruta. These include the first land animals, and help us document the important
transition from fins to limbs. Read more...
| ||June 2009 - New research on early mammals|
Two MSc Palaeobiology
students in the Department of Earth Sciences have had notable successes in their work on
the habits of some of the earliest mammals to have lived, some two hundred million years
ago. Nick Crumpton and Kelly Richards are studying the fossilised remains of animals from
the Triassic and Jurassic periods, found in ancient caves in the Bristol area, applying
innovative new research techniques. Nick has been honoured with a 'best paper' prize, and
Kelly has raised funding for her advanced CT-scanning work. Read more...
| ||June 2009 - Palaeobiology Masters student wins prizes|
Sarah Keenan, an
MSc student in Palaeobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences, has been awarded a
research grant by the Geological Society of America to fund field work in Montana and
Texas. This is one of several awards she has accumulated during her year in Bristol:
others include some $2000 from the Geological Society of America, and a grant from the
University of Bristol Alumni Fund, all to cover costs of field work and laboratory
geochemical analyses. Read more...
| ||May 2009 - Fossil magnetism and the end-Permian mass extinction|
major extinction events real biological catastrophes or were they merely the result of
gaps in the fossil record? Research by a team of geologists from the Universities of
Bristol, Plymouth, and Saratov State in Russia, has shed new light on the debate. A
supposed gap in the Russian latest Permian red beds, just below the Permo-Triassic
boundary, is much smaller than had been thought, and so the sediments provide a relatively
complete picture of the sequence of events. Read more...
| ||February 2009 - Evolution: the Red Queen
or the Court Jester?|
Evolution may be dominated by biotic factors,
(sometimes called the 'Red Queen' view of evolution, after the Red Queen in Alice
through the Looking-Glass), or abiotic factors, as in the Court Jester model, or a
mixture of both. In a review article in the journal Science this week, Mike Benton
argues that viewed close up, evolution is all about biotic interactions in ecosystems (the
Red Queen model), but when seen from further away, the large patterns of biodiversity are
driven by the physical environment (the Court Jester model). Read more...
| ||November 2008 - The fossil record of
whales, and other marine mammals|
Felix Marx, a fourth year student in the
Department of Earth Sciences has just published his first paper in the Proceedings of
the Royal Society, a journal of international significance. Felix looked at the
fossil records of whales, seals, and sea cows, and compared the fossil data to the
availability of appropriate rock; he finds evidence for some geological control of the
fossil record signal, but enough of a biological signal emerges to be used for
evolutionary studies. Read more...
| ||October 2008 - Major new book on the natural
In a new book, published this month, leading scientists from around
the world explore 'Seventy Mysteries of the Natural World'. The book, edited by Mike
Benton, and with contribution from himself, Phil Donoghue, and others in Bristol, consists
of 304 lavishly illustrated pages on major themes of current research on origins, the
Earth, evolution, plants & animals, geographic distributions, animal behaviour, and
climate change the future. The book is available in US, UK, German, and Dutch editions so
far. Book details for people in the UK and in North America. Sample
text here. The
editor rambles on about the book here.
| ||September 2008 - Mass extinctions and the slow rise of the dinosaurs|
Dinosaurs survived two mass extinctions and 50 million years before taking over the world
and dominating ecosystems, according to new research published this week. Reporting in
Biology Letters, Steve Brusatte, Professor Michael Benton, and colleagues at the
University of Bristol show that dinosaurs did not proliferate immediately after they
originated, but that their rise was a slow and complicated event, and driven by two mass
| ||September 2008 - What's in a [dinosaur] name?|
A new species of dinosaur is
named somewhere in the world every two weeks. But are they all new species, or do the
newly-discovered bones really belong to a dinosaur already identified? Recent studies on
dinosaurs have shown that the error rate may be as high as 50 per cent. But new work by
Mike Benton shows that things may be improving - most dinosaurs are now named from
more-or-less complete skeletons, whereas, before 1960, most were named from isolated
pieces - and so the risk of making a mistake was much higher. The work is published today
in Biology Letters. Read more...
| ||September 2008 - First numerical study of dinosaurian origins|
A new study
shows that the dinosaurs originated in two steps, and that they did not compete in a
straghtforward way with precursor groups. Steve Brusatte, while an MSc student in the
Department, worked with Mike Benton, Marcello Ruta, and Graeme Lloyd to investigate the
disparity and morphospace occupation, or overall variability, of dinosaurs and their main
competitors, the crurotarsans, through the Late Triassic. The dinosaurs took over some
herbivore niches, but then remained at low disparity for 25 million years, before the
majority of crurotarsans died out. Read more...
| ||September 2008 -
Global warming wiped
out the first rainforests|
Addressing the British Association's Festival of
Science in Liverpool this week, Dr Howard Falcon Lang talked how about global warming led
to the demise of the first rainforests 300 million years ago and what that might mean for
the future of rainforests on our planet. Read the BBC report and interview and further details.
| ||July 2008 - Dinosaurs were running out of steam...|
A new numerical
study by palaeontologists in Bristol, and elsewhere, shows that dinosaurs did not
participate in the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution, the time 120-100 million
years ago, when flowering plants, insects, and vertebrates were evolving explosively. In
the study, a new supertree of dinsoaurs was tested numerically to establish times of
unusually high rates of diversification: dinosaurs had done all their evolving in the
Triassic and Early Jurassic. Read more..., and see the details
| || July 2008 - Was it a bird or was it a plane? |
involving Bristol's departments of Earth Sciences and Aerospace Engineering have given a
better understanding of the way that kuehneosaurs - a group of extinct reptiles - used
their ribs to fly. Koen Stein built models and tested them in a wind tunnel whilst he was
studying for an MSc in Palaeobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences. Read more...
| || May 2008 - Two elite new research fellowships for Bristol
The Department of Earth Sciences has secured three
prestigious Advanced Research Fellowships worth a total of £1.7 million in the National
Environment Research Council's (NERC) latest funding round. Two of the three new research
fellows are palaeontologists, Dr Howard Falcon-Lang and Dr Marcello Ruta. Each year, NERC
generally award seven or eight Advanced Research Fellowships, so Bristol has done
remarkably well to secure three of the national quota. The Fellowships will support
Falcon-Lang's work on Carboniferous palaeoclimates and Ruta's research on the evolutionary
dynamics of tetrapods. The Fellowships each lasts for five years. Read more...
| || May 2008 - New fossil bird
from China |
In a collaboration with researchers from the Institute of
Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, the remarkable new fossil bird
Eoconfuciusornis zhengi has just been named from the Dabeigou Formation of Liaoning
Province, China. In an article in Science in China, D: Earth Sciences, the
authors, Dr Zhang Fucheng, who was a postdoctoral fellow in Bristol when he did the work,
together with Professor Zhou Zhonghe of the IVPP and Professor Michael Benton of Bristol,
show that Eoconfuciusornis is an important link in our understanding of the
evolution of flight, between the older Archaeopteryx and the younger
confuciusornithids. Read more...
| || April 2008 - Professor Mike
Benton elected to elite Fellowship |
Mike Benton, Professor of Vertebrate
Palaeontology, has been elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh - a
recognition of academic excellence. Read more
| || || April 2008 - New edition of
book on the Earth's greatest mass extinction |
The greatest mass extinction
of all time occurred 251 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period. In this
cataclysm, at least ninety per cent of life was destroyed, both on land, including
sabre-toothed reptiles and their rhinoceros-sized prey, and in the sea. Michael Benton's
book about this catastrophe "When Life Nearly Died: the greatest mass
extinction of all time" has been published in paperback this week. Read more...,
and find out more about the book here.
| || February 2008 - Bristol MSc student names two new dinosaurs from North
MSc student Steve Brusatte, and his former supervisor, Paul Sereno
of the University of Chicago, describe two new dinosaurs, Kryptops, the oldest
abelisauroid theropod, and Eocarcharia, the oldest carcharodontosaurid theropod,
both from Niger in the Sahara, and both indicating the origins of their respective groups
in Africa and surround lands. Read more...
| || February 2008 - Evolving complexity out of 'junk DNA' |
Phil Donoghue is
co-author on a study that shows how 'junk DNA' may provide clues about the origin
multicelled animals. New analyses of the DNA of living fishes and their spineless
relatives such as the seq squirts shows that vertebrates have a whole array of new genes,
especially micro RNAs, that were key to the development of new organ systems. Read more...
| || January 2008 - Recovering from the largest mass extinction of all time |
largest mass extinction of time, at the end of the Permian 25 million years ago, wiped out
most of life. So far, researchers have observed that life seemed to recover quite
rapidly: in individual faunas, species numbers were restored sometimes in 1-5 million
years. A new ecological study by Sarda Sahney and Mike Benton shows, however, that full
ecosystem complexity took at least 30 million years to recover. Read more...
| || January 2008 - Working out the mechanics of the crocodile-skulled
An unusual British dinosaur, Baryonyx, has been shown to
have a skull that functioned like a fish-eating crocodile. It also possessed two huge hand
claws, perhaps used as grappling hooks to lift fish from the water. Emily Rayfield used
finite element analysis to assess stresses and strains in the unusual long narrow snout of
the spinosaurids to assess different postulated feeding functions. Read more...
| || January 2008 - Pygmy dinosaur inhabited Bristol's tropical islands|
Whiteside and John Marshall, who both completed PhDs in the Department in the 1980s, have
come back to retread their old haunts. In combined work, they have re-studied the
Tytherington fissures, Late Triassic fossil- bearing sediments from ancient cave systems.
They confirm the age of these cave systems from the rich palynoflora, and that the Bristol
dinosaur, Thecodontosaurus lived on a system of subtropical islands. Read more...
| || December 2007 - Bristol MSc student identifies gigantic new dinosaur |
Brusatte, who has just completed the Bristol MSc in
Palaeobiology, has described a new species of Carcharodontosaurus, a huge
predator from Morocco. Carcharodontosaurus roamed North Africa 100 million years
ago, and it was larger than Tyrannosaurus rex. Read more...
| || November 2007 -
Giant fossil sea
A 390 million year old claw is shown to belong to an ancient
arthropod that was two and a half metres long. The claw, measuring 46 centimetres was
found in the Devonian of Germany, and has been identified as coming from the eurypterid
Jaekelopterus, and is described this week by Simon Braddy and Markus Poschmann...
| || October 2007 - Bristol palaeontologist
discovers earliest evidence for reptiles |
A new find of fossil footprints
from the Mid Carboniferous of Nova Scotia has pushed the date of origin of reptiles back a
few million years. The new footprints, described by Howard Falcon-Lang and Mike Benton
from the Department of Earth Sciences show features characteristic of reptiles, rather
than amphibians... Read more...
| || April 2007 - Earth's first rainforest
is unearthed |
A spectacular fossilised forest has transformed our
understanding of the ecology of the Earth's first rainforests. The 300-million-year-old
forest is composed of a bizarre mixture of extinct plants: abundant club mosses, more than
40 metres high, towering over a sub-canopy of tree ferns, intermixed with shrubs and tree-sized horsetails. Read more...
| || January 2007 -
New protocol for dating the tree of
Mike Benton and Phil Donoghue present a new protocol for dating the
tree of life in a paper just published in Molecular Biology and Evolution. In
this, they argue that fossils can provide only minimum constraints on the ages of
branching points in the trees, and maximum constraints are less well defined. Modern
algorithms can cope with such hard minimum constraints and soft maximum constraints, and
in the end produce more reliable dates. Mike and Phil present detailed evidence for
fossil-based calibration dates. Read more...
| || October 2006 -
Schmidt is awarded a Royal Society research fellowship |
Dr Dani Schmidt,
currently in the Department as a NERC Research Fellow, has just been awarded a Royal
Society University Research Fellowship (URF). This highly prestigious post gives her at
least five years of funded research on a wide range of themes. She works on the evolution
of Foraminifera through the past 100 million years, and the evidence they offer about
high-resolution aspects of climate change in deep time. Read more
| || October 2006 - Bristol palaeontologists discover more about earliest animal
A team from Bristol and other institutions has used x-ray imaging
to reveal more detail of the internal structures of Doushantuo embryos (see story below):
they are from dervied metazoans, not sponges. The Bristol team members are Phil Donoghue,
Neil Gostling, and Maria Pawlowska, a third-year undergraduate studying the MSci
Palaeontology and Evolution programme. Read
| || August 2006 -
Bristol palaeontologists reconstruct ancient embryos using microscopic
Detailed images of embryos more than 500 million years old have
been revealed by an international team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol's
Dr Phil Donoghue. This week the journal Nature published pictures revealing the developmental stages of
fossilised embryos, using synchrotron-radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy. Read more...
| || October 2005 - Dinosaur
expert, Emily Rayfield, joins Bristol Palaeontology Research Group |
Rayfield's is interested in the biomechanics and evolution of dinosaur skulls. She
researches the application of engineering analysis to questions of morphological function
and evolution in living and extinct organisms. She has also virtually reconstructed skulls
using laser and computed tomography (CT) scanning techniques. Read more...
| May 2005 - Report on Bristol end-Permian mass extinction project |
Leaden skies, darkness at noon, and suffocating air. A few rare survivors inhabit this
desolate planet. This is not a nightmare scenario for a possible future, but a description
of the Earth 251 million years ago, at the end of the Permian age. Read more...
| || January
2005 - Mike Benton publishes third edition of Vertebrate
Vertebrate Palaeontology is a complete, up-to-date
history of the evolution of vertebrates. The third edition of this popular text has been
extensively revised to incorporate the latest research, including new material from North
and South America, Australia, Europe, China, Africa and Russia. Read more...
| ||May 2004 - Fossil
trees help understand climate change |
A unique assemblage of giant fossil
trees has been found in 300-million-year-old rocks by Bristol palaeontologist, Dr Howard
Falcon-Lang. The 45m tall fossilised trees are the oldest upland forests ever found. The
timing of upland 'greening' has major implications for understanding global temperatures
in the past, and will help refine models of present-day climate change. Read more...
| || January 2004 - 500-million-year old fossil embryos from China |
Evidence from fossilised embryos of worm-like creatures that lived 500 million years ago
shows that embryos developed then in much the same way as their living relatives do today.
The implications of this remarkable discovery, reported in this week's issue of Nature,
are that embryological processes that occur today must have been established very early on
in the evolution of animals. Read more...
|| || May 2003 - When Life
Nearly Died: a new book by Mike Benton |
The topic of the book is the
end-Permian extinction, an event less known to the average reader but of far greater
impact than that of the KT boundary extinction of the dinosaurs. The Permian devastation
left the planet with only 4-10% of its previous species. It was a bottleneck of major
consequence for subsequent biodiversity. Read