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Speaker Series – September 2018
September 19 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Adventures with the earliest amphibious arthropods: human history and ancient ecology
Speaker: Dr. Robert MacNaughton
The earliest evidence of animals leaving the water to move about on land comes from fossilized arthropod trackways in the Cambrian of eastern North America. Such trackways were first recognized and collected in the late 1840s at Beauharnois, near Montreal. The collected trackways made their way to the United Kingdom, to be described by Sir Richard Owen, the anatomist best remembered today for coining the term “dinosaur”. Owen provided detailed, well-illustrated descriptions, and gave the trackways a Linnean name: Protichnites. After that promising start, a complicated history followed, including the loss and eventual rediscovery of the Beauharnois specimens. This talk will trace that history, review some recent work on the earliest landward excursions of animals, and discuss the challenges of studying and classifying the footprints that those creatures left behind.
Robert MacNaughton is a Research Scientist in the Calgary office of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). His research focuses on the tectonics, paleontology, and stratigraphic evolution of northwestern mainland Canada. Since his undergraduate days, he has been fascinated by ichnology—the study of fossilized animal behaviour. He has been fortunate to indulge this fascination through studies of the Cambrian “explosion”, early life in the deep seas, and the earliest history of animals on dry land.