Research Student 2013
Project Title: The Middle Jurassic Plankton Explosion
Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Butterfield (Cambridge) and Dr James Riding (British Geological Survey)
Marine plankton are key constituents of global biogeochemical cycles and offer unique proxies for tracking climate, oceanography, ecology and evolution through deep time . One of the most important groups of modern marine plankton is the dinoflagellates, which first appeared in the fossil record in the Middle-Late Triassic. Following an Early Jurassic interval of low diversity, the group underwent an explosive evolutionary radiation in the Bajocian (Middle Jurassic- 170- 168 Ma), broadly coincident with the comparable radiation of coccolithophorids and the first appearance of planktonic foraminfera in the fossil record. This Middle Jurassic revolution in marine plankton marks the onset of the modern marine biosphere and has been variously linked to the breakup of Pangaea and/or a delayed recovery from the Early Toarcian oceanic anoxic event; it may also relate to the predator-driven Mesozoic Marine Revolution. Surprisingly little is known about the patterns of dinoflagellate evolution through this critical interval.
My project seeks to reconstruct a detailed stratigraphic pattern of this radiation from key Bajocian sections in Europe and correlate this globally. I am particularly interested in developing a better understanding of the palaeobiology, functional morphology and ecology of dinoflagellate cysts in deep time. These data will then be integrated with geochemical records (principally carbon isotopes) to help constrain the driving mechanisms behind this radiation. Furthermore I am interested in better understanding dinoflagellate cyst functional morphology and ecology in deep time and the roles this may have played in this major evolutionary radiation.