When and how does history matter in the marine realm? Ecology versus phylogeny

5 October 2018

Nicholas Pyenson
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution


Our understanding of biological diversity is primarily underpinned by two major conceptual conceits: a tree of life (phylogeny) and a web of life (ecology). These two concepts are largely free of geographic and temporal scaling, yet they are related to one another by history. In other words, the relationships of lineages and the consequences of their interactions have changed over time, from origin, by assembly and elaboration, or through extinction. My talk will focus on how tree-thinking and web-thinking are related using examples from the fossil record of the marine realm, including how these problems in the history of life are biased by an incomplete geologic record. My examples span across geologic time, and run up to the present day, where the maintenance and fate of marine biodiversity, especially in the Anthropocene, is inextricably related to our own species.


current theory lunch schedule