12.517 Dynamics of Complex Systems: Biological and Environmental Coevolution Preceding the Cambrian Explosion

As taught in: Spring 2005

a photogrpah of 560 million year old fossils.  A coin is placed next to the fossils for scale.

560 million year old fossils. (Courtesy of Samuel Bowring.)

Level:

Graduate

Instructors:

Prof. Daniel Rothman

Course Highlights

This course features a complete reading list and student presentation topics in the assignments section.

Course Description

This seminar will focus on dynamical change in biogeochemical cycles accompanying early animal evolution -- beginning with the time of the earliest known microscopic animal fossils (~600 million years ago) and culminating (~100 million years later) with the rapid diversification of marine animals known as the "Cambrian explosion." Recent work indicates that this period of intense biological evolution was both a cause and an effect of changes in global biogeochemical cycles. We will seek to identify and quantify such coevolutionary changes. Lectures and discussions will attempt to unite the perspectives of quantitative theory, organic geochemistry, and evolutionary biology.