skip to primary navigationskip to content

Part III Options: Palaeontology

EA: Vertebrate palaeobiology

David Norman

The rise and diversification of vertebrates since the Cambrian has been spectacular and encompasses their differentiation, from within the deuterostomes, the exploitation of the aquatic realm by large-bodied vertebrates that developed an 'exuberant' range of feeding and locomotor adaptations exemplified in the fossil record by fish. The transition to land involved the exaptation of a range of anatomical innovations linked to the exploitation, by fish, of shallow-water environments; but the actual domination of terrestrial (and ultimately aerial) environments (as large-body-mass organisms) required the step-wise acquisition of fascinating mechanical and physiological innovations. This course concentrates upon these major evolutionary transitions and focuses upon unravelling the 'why?' and the 'how?' by reference to sources such as the actual fossils and known biological processes linked to a quasi-forensic approach that incorporates Earth processes, phylogenetics, physiology and engineering design.

Theory paper: 90 minutes. Two questions from a choice of five.

Assessed practicals:  Marks split 60% to theory paper and 40% to practical paper


EB: Palaeobotany

Nick Butterfield

Land plants play a first-order role in structuring the modern Earth system, a consequence of ca. 500 million years of 'progressive' evolutionary innovation and planetary feedback effects.  A rich fossil record, combined with insights from molecular biology, evolutionary theory and geobiology, allow the broad patterns of this history to be reconstructed.  This course will survey the evolution of land plants, focussing on the origin of major clades, organ systems, and ecosystems.

90 minute 'theory' paper which may include specimens


Palaeontology options Lent Term 2017

PALAEO A Vertebrate palaeobiology Dr David Norman Wks 1-4, M. W. 9-11
Exam code: EA Room: H2/Palaeo
PALAEO B Palaeobotany Prof. Nick Butterfield Wks 5-8, M. W. 9-11
Exam code: EB Room: H2/Palaeo


Past Tripos papers