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Geological Sciences Seminar: Tom Boag, Stanford University

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 12:00 PM
Zoom meeting
More Info:


Faculty/Staff, Students, Alumni/Friends
Department of Geological Science

Investigating the role of animal physiology on biodiversity patterns in the paleontological record

Increasing evidence from modern biology suggest that marine ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals will be some of the most critically affected by climate change. In particular, increasing water temperatures and deoxygenation have major physiological impacts on this group as they reduce the aerobic scope (ability to raise metabolic rate) to perform important, energy-intensive functions such as reproduction and predation. These physiological principals are just beginning to be extended to the paleontological record, as patterns of biodiversity observed through geologic time (e.g. mass extinctions) have long been linked to major perturbations to global climate. In this talk, we apply physiological principals to examine how temperate and oxygen may have shaped patterns of biodiversity during two paleontological intervals. First, we show how low atmospheric oxygen levels during the Ediacaran Period (635-540Ma) likely contributed to the deep-ocean origination of animals. Second, we show that physiology and climate have had a first order control on marine latitudinal biodiversity gradients during the Cretaceous and Cenozoic. We demonstrate that the modern equatorial peak in biodiversity is a common product of icehouse climates, while during hyperthermal intervals equatorial diversity decreases, and instead diversity peaks at higher latitudes.

Tom Boag is currently a senior PhD student at Stanford University in Geological Sciences. His research is focused on understanding how climate has impacted marine animals at different periods in Earth history, particularly in early animal ecosystems during the Ediacaran Period. To do this he uses a combination of physiology experiments, stratigraphy, stable isotope geochemistry, and quantitative analysis of large datasets. He received his BSc from Queen’s University in Geological Sciences, and a Master’s degree in Earth Science from the University of Toronto.

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