Terrestrial ecosystems: Paleozoic plant and animal communities (November 5 & 7)

Now that we have sorted out the basics of plant biology and systematics, we can dive into the early history of plants on land. We’ll begin with the evolution of soil from microbial mats, then proceed through the first vascular land plants rooted in that new soil. Our first event will be the Devonian Wood Crisis and its effects on the atmosphere and oceans, leading to the Devonian Mass Extinction. Here’s a popular account of the Devonian marine eutrophication hypothesis. It’s a good story at the intersection of many paleoecological themes we have developed.

After the leafy stage is set, the first land animals appeared in all their creeping glory. First will be land invertebrates (the earliest being Pneumodesmus) and then the early tetrapods. As you know, this is not a systematic paleontology course, so we will concentrate on changing ecological relationships over time. One such ecological event was the Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse.

Geology in the News —

Humpback whales have a sophisticated way of catching fish. They swim in circles making a “net” of bubbles to concentrate their prey. Very smart. The technique is called “pectoral herding”.

Our current ecological crisis just gets worse. Now it is not only birds and insects that are declining, but spiders too.

The German space agency has just released an amazing DEM map of Earth. It has a vertical precision of one meter. And it’s free to explore and download!