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What does our planet look like at its most extreme? How does life evolve to cope with these extreme environments? Tonight, learn about the first complex organisms to thrive on Earth, explore ice cores that tell us about the extremes of our planet’s past climate, and marvel at the weird and wonderful marine animals in the Antarctic today.
Illuminating the Origins of Complex Life
Emily Mitchell (Junior Research Fellow, Department of Earth Sciences)
For billions of years, life on Earth was only microbial. Then suddenly, around half a billion years ago in the Ediacaran time period, strange, large, complicated lifeforms started appearing. These Ediacaran organisms have body plans unlike anything alive today, so while some are likely to have been the first animals, others may have belonged to a now extinct group. I will talk about how I have employed a variety of scientific characterization tools to examine the lives of these strange creatures.
Back to the future through the polar ice sheets
Rachael Rhodes (Research Associate, Department of Earth Sciences)
Drilling down into the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland is travelling back in time. Ice cores retrieved tell us about extremes in our Earth's past climate: cold ice ages that show fast, abrupt temperature swings and intervals of warmth that provide interesting analogues for our future climate.
Monsters in the cold: Adaptations of Antarctic marine animals
Lloyd Peck (Professor & Science Leader, British Antarctic Survey)
Antarctic marine animals have lived in the coldest and most seasonal conditions in all of the oceans on Earth. They have evolved there for over 15 million years and this has produced unique adaptations and some of the world’s most bizarre animals. There are giants and 10 legged spiders. The seabed biodiversity there is far more diverse than most people realise and the proportion of species that only live in Antarctica and nowhere else is far higher than for any other continent.
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