Thursday, February 16, 2012
Mass Extinctions and Their Effect on Evolutionary Change

Peter Ward, PhD
University of Washington at Seattle

Earth Theater, First Floor Rear
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Noon–1 p.m. Ward

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has developed into a comprehensive science of evolutionary biology. In 1985, Stephen Jay Gould proposed that the phenomenon of mass extinction constituted a new level of biological evolution. Mass extinctions have had evolutionary effects in shaping the modern biota. Increasingly it appears that all of the past mass extinctions had some component of short-term global warming involved. The pivotal question is whether we are experiencing a new mass extinction driven by human-induced climate change. Ward is currently examining the nature of the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event with studies concentrating on ammonites and bivalves. He is also examining speciation patterns and ecology of the living cephalopods Nautilus and Sepia.

Related Publication: Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What they Can Tell Us about Our Future. Harper Perennial, 2008, 256 pp.

One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh