Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - BRUS (The end-Cretaceous extinction and Paleogene recovery of mammals: evolution during a period of intense environmental change)

How do organisms respond to environmental change? Answering this question is an essential challenge in contemporary scientific research, as it will help us understand—and better prepare for—the rapid pace of current change. One major case study in the geological record is the end-Cretaceous extinction 66 million years ago, when a sudden asteroid strike and associated events killed off ~75% of all species, including the non-bird dinosaurs. This CIG project aims to understand how the end-Cretaceous extinction affected the evolution of mammals, one of the groups that endured the extinction and prospered in the aftermath. The main goals are to collect and describe critical new mammal fossils from the first few million years after the extinction, place these in a comprehensive family tree of early mammals, and then use the genealogy to study long-term trends in mammal evolution and test how the extinction and post-extinction climate change affected mammalian history. Thus far we have conducted two years of fieldwork in New Mexico that has recovered important new fossils, including the new species Kimbetopsalis, which we have begun to describe. We have also been using often-neglected techniques such as Bayesian phylogenetic analysis and ecological statistical analyses to build family trees and study evolution trends, and developing new methods for quantifying rates of evolution over time. Thus far, 16 peer-reviewed papers, several conference presentations, and a large amount of public outreach have stemmed from this project, and we are on track to complete our most important goals within the four-year window of the grant. This will provide a state-of-the-art look at how mammals endured, responded to, and thrived in the aftermath of one of the worst mass extinctions in Earth history. This CIG project has also helped the PI (Brusatte) secure a permanent research position at the University of Edinburgh and establish Scotland’s first dedicated vertebrate palaeontology laboratory.

Reported by

United Kingdom


Life Sciences
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