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Antarctic Life On The Brink... With A Drink!

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At the end of the Cretaceous (66 million years ago), there was a mass extinction that wiped out approximately 75% of marine and 50% of terrestrial species. The cause of the extinction is most commonly thought to have been a large comet impact, although the Late Cretaceous was also a period of major volcanic activity. One of the most notable groups to become extinct at this time was the dinosaurs. This is one of the ‘big five’ mass extinction events in earth history that have shaped the evolution of life. In depth studies on Seymour Island, north east of the Antarctic Peninsula have provided us with the most comprehensive and accurately collected datasets over this time period anywhere in the world. Extensive fossil collections, along with sediment samples, microfossil samples and detailed geological studies have allowed us to understand life and the environment over 100 million years through the Cretaceous (from 145 million years ago) to the Eocene (which ended ~ 35 million years ago). Detailed studies show that there was a single extinction event of relatively high magnitude in Antarctica. This caused a major change in the composition of the marine community, in the types of animals and how they lived. Studying catastrophic events in earth history helps us to understand how modern life evolved and how it might respond to change.

This talk is part of the British Antarctic Survey Happy Hour Seminar Series series.

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