Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Arctic Mammals and Climate Change before the Ice Age
Natalia Rybczynski, PhD
Canadian Museum of Nature
Earth Theater, First Floor Rear
We are all familiar with the image of Canada's far north as a vast, desolate landscape of permafrost, tundra, and ice. Yet—even just 3 million years ago—the High Arctic was formerly a much warmer place, supporting diverse forest communities. The Arctic fossil record of the past 50 million years provides rich evidence for investigating evolution and climate change. New research has revealed unexpected results that help us understand how sensitive the Arctic may be to global warming. Also, some of the fossils yield important evolutionary insights. For example, the recently discovered 20-million-year-old Puijila darwini provides exciting new evidence for investigating how the lineage of seals evolved from a terrestrial ancestor.
Natalia Rybczynski earned her MSc at the University of Toronto and her PhD at Duke University in 2003, and since then she has led multiple expeditions to the Canadian High Arctic. She studies the fossil record using an interdisciplinary approach (e.g., stable isotopes, comparative anatomy, and biomechanics) to better understand the evolutionary relationship between form, function, and environmental change.
Rybczynski, N., M.R. Dawson, and R.H. Tedford. 2009. A semi-aquatic Arctic mammalian carnivore from the Miocene Epoch and origin of Pinnipedia. Nature 458: 1021-1024.