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Western Regional Group: Shifting Sands: The Fossil Record of Early Animal Evolution from Southern Namibia

23 July 2024
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Event type:
Hybrid, Regional Group, Lecture
Organised by:
Geological Society Events, Western Regional Group
The Hub, 500 Aztec West, Almondsbury, Bristol, BS32 4RZ
Event status:

Time and location

This is a hybrid event, which can be attended in person at The Hub, 500 Aztec West, Almondsbury, Bristol, BS32 4RZ, or online via Zoom. 

6.00pm: Room opens
6.30pm: Talk starts

Event details

'Shifting Sands: The Fossil Record of Early Animal Evolution from Southern Namibia', presented by Dr Alex Liu, University of Cambridge

Join the Western Regional Group of the Geological Society on 23 July, when Dr Alex Liu will provide fascinating insights gained from the Ediacaran fossils and how his work is challenging the extinction narrative.

Recent studies suggest that fossils of the Ediacaran biota, which include the oldest recognisable animals, experience a major decline in species diversity around 550 million years ago. This has been interpreted by some as Earth's first "mass extinction", a conclusion that would have substantial implications for our understanding of early animal evolution. 

Work by Dr Liu's team in Cambridge on the Nama Group of southern Namibia is challenging this extinction narrative. Via comparison with field data collected in Australia, Canada and China, Dr Liu will show how Namibian sedimentological data demonstrate that there are strong ecological, sedimentological and environmental explanations for differences in the fossil assemblages we see before and after the proposed 'extinction'. Furthermore, when we apply sedimentological knowledge to predict areas where we might look to find diverse Ediacaran fossil assemblages, we find spectacular new fossil sites that promise to fill major gaps in the early evolution and radiation of several animal phyla. 

WMRG Shifting Sands talk image


Dr Alex Liu is an Associate Professor in palaeobiology at the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. He has been at the University of Cambridge since 2016, following undergraduate and PhD degrees in Oxford, and postdoctoral positions in Cambridge and Bristol. His research investigates the fossil record of early animal evolution, and incorporates petrological, sedimentological and palaeontological approaches.


This event is free to attend, and non-members are welcome.

To book your place, please email [email protected]