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YPS Lecture: Imagining Life on Earth

13 October 2015
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Yorkshire Philosophical Society, Earth Science Week 2015
Tempest Anderson Hall
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A lecture by Prof Phil Manning, Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Ancient Life, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester

Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace were the first to grasp the importance of the “endless forms most beautiful” that weave a complex web of origin, diversification and extinction of life on Earth. The evidence that fossils provide magnificently tells the story of descent with modification and the evolution of life through natural selection. Unravelling genomes and reconstructing molecular family trees (phylogenies) can now precisely measure the evolutionary distance between this tapestry of extant species.

The fossil remains that litter deep time provide a physical record for evolution of life on Earth, but are not so easy to characterize. The DNA that defines life is a fragile molecule, unable to resist even the gentlest ravages of geological time. The molecule of life is recovered from rare samples no older than 1 million years, and then only in exceptional circumstances. The proteome might be the next logical focus, as proteins are more robust and might leave tantalizing evidence for the very building blocks of life. Here the frustration is also evident to those who study such ancient molecules, as anything older than 10 million years is rare.

Is there another way that we can unpick the biological codec concealed within fossil remains? ... Join Prof. Manning on a journey to see how technology is revolutionising the way we study life on Earth.



Earth Science Week - 13-19 October 2014

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Yorkshire Philosophical Society

Tel: 01904 656713