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UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER -Resolving the riddle of our earliest backboned ancestors

June 10, 2014



ENP Newswire - 10 June 2014

Release date- 09062014 - An academic team from the University of Leicester will explore the depths of mankind's deepest evolutionary origins - as told through their research into the rotting fossils of fish.

Dr Sarah Gabbott and Professor Mark Purnell from the University's Department of Geology will be presenting their research to the public at the Natural History Museum on Wednesday 11 June between 4:00-10:00pm as part of Universities Week 2014 which runs from 9 - 15 June.

During Universities Week, universities hold public engagement activities to interact with the public in exciting ways with a week-long series of events conveying the importance of academic research to a wide audience.

Sarah and Mark's research will discuss how, when and why our earliest fish-like vertebrate ancestors evolved, allowing us to correctly recognise and interpret ancient fossils and providing us with a much clearer view of our evolutionary origins.

Dr Gabbott said: 'Questions concerning how our earliest aquatic ancestors evolved are fundamental to understanding our place in evolution, but answers remain elusive.

'Our earliest fish-like ancestors, which swam in the sea more than 500 million years ago, had no hard parts in their bodies so they left very few fossils. But, amazingly, sometimes their soft parts such as muscles, eyes, gills and guts did become fossilized. We need to understand how the process of decay has affected these fossils if we are going to correctly reconstruct these ancient animals and work out what they tell us about life and the evolution of vertebrates 500 million years ago.'

By rotting a variety of primitive fish, the University of Leicester team is discovering how their characteristic anatomical features are transformed and lost during decay. Their results allow us to correctly recognise and interpret the ancient fossils.

300 million year old fossils of primitive vertebrates will be on display and available for people to handle and look at. In addition, members of the public can have a go at being a palaeontologist by sifting through sand to discover more recent fossils, a mere 54 million years old, of sharks' teeth, rays' vertebrae and other remains.

The exhibition is supported by the University of Leicester, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and The Palaeontological Association.

Universities Week 2014 is being run by Universities UK with Research Councils UK, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement. It has been running since 2010 and this year aims to open up a national conversation about the relevance of university research and its everyday impact on our lives.

The University of Leicester stand at the Natural History Museum will take place on Wednesday 11 June between 4:00-10:00pm


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Source: ENP Newswire


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