Please note: For this class there will be additional costs (€450,-) for the excursion
This course is an (extracurricular) Honours Class: an honours elective in the Honours College programme. There are limited spots available for second- and third-year non honours students. Admission will be based on motivation.
Students that want to graduate in the summer of 2019 cannot take this course, since we cannot guarantee that your grade will be processed in time for Bachelor’s certification and/ or Master’s admission procedures.
Life in all its diversity evolved in the marine environment. In this course taught at Leiden University and at the Marine Center of the University Marie et Pierre Curie, France, in Roscoff, we teach aspects of the Tree of Life, we focus on the transition from mono-cellular life to animal life conquering the continents in the early Paleozoic, and we address Earth history from the time of the origin of life to the adaptations that made the emergence of land life possible.
We bring together a multi-disciplinary team of marine biologists, ecologists, physicists and geophysicists, isotope geochemists, paleontologists and geologists to teach a course in geo-biology with special interest in the Tree of Life, the origin of life, and the environments in which life evolved.
There is some consensus that the origin of life dates back to the earliest Archean or late Hadean, however, there is much controversy on the fossil record from these earliest rocks. It is not until the Phanerozoic period that the development of life can be tracked in the fossil record as organisms developed hard parts, which provide a better means of fossilization. Life went through different crises, including global phases of extinction. Each of these mass extinctions not only decimated life, but also provided new possibilities for the survivors.
The final steps forward of life on the planet covered in the course is the adaptation to life conditions on land. Understanding early life starts with the study of recent communities. Though some phyla from the beginning of the Phanerozoic have disappeared, all recent phyla have their earliest representatives in the Paleozoic or even the Proterozoic. Basic knowledge of the Tree of Life, in combination with the geological record, is necessary to understand the early evolution. In the course we focus on life in the marine environment where most of the taxa that constitute the tree of life can be found, but we will also look at life on land and see how it is related to its marine ancestry.
After completion of the course the students will be able to:
Identify key fossils from the Paleozoic era;
Identify marine organisms as can be found along the coast of Normandy near Luc-sur-Mer;
Recognize geological structures in the field;
Read a geological map;
Identify a range of sedimentary and magmatic rocks.
After completion of the course the students will know:
The evolution of continents since the early Archean era;
The radiation of life in the Eocambrian and early Phanerozoic;
Adaptation of life to living on land in the Paleozoic era;
The major Bauplans of marine organisms;
The basic structure of the Tree of Life.
have an understanding of the relation of land forms and underlying geological structures;
have an understanding of different taxa of the Tree of life, both in the paleontological record and in the modern marine environment;
develop a holistic view of earth processes occurring at the earth surface through time from geophysical and geochemical view points on the origin and evolution of life.
Lectures in Leiden: 3 June, 4 June, 5 June, 6 June, 11 June, 12 June, 13, 14 June from 17:00-20:00, Gorlaeus Lab
Fieldwork in Roscoff, Brittany, France: 17 August to 31 August 2019.
Note: for this Honours Class there will be additional costs (€450,-) for the excursion.
June: Huygens Laboratory (Niels Bohrweg 2), room 207. Except for 6 June and 14 June. On 6 June the lecture will take place in room 106-109. On 14 June the lecture will take place in room 204.
August: Roscoff, Brittany, France
Theme 1: Geology: setting the stage for life
Lecture 1: From planetary accretion to continents. Earth history in the early stages of the earth.
Lecture 2. Timescales in Geology. From isotopic dating techniques to division of Earth history into different periods.
Lecture 3. The origin and significance of the earth’s magnetic shield.
Lecture 4. The composition of the early atmosphere, the oceans, and the sea floor, how this composition changed with time, and its relevance for the origin of life on earth.
Theme 2: Young Earth, young life
Lecture 5. Stable isotope systems as tracers of life:
Si and Fe isotopes as indicators of metabolism in the Archean.
13C/12C fractionation through time, biological and inorganic causes.
Lecture 6. Exo Life.
Lecture 7. Origin of Life: The history of theories on the origin of life or biogenesis. Comparison of chemical and physical approaches to biogenetic theories. Biogenesis will be placed within the ecological framework of a development of reducing -> oxidising conditions.
Lecture 8. The thermodynamics of photosynthesis and its role in the development of the biosphere and its import on the atmosphere.
Theme 3: Crises and opportunities
Lecture 9. Life, but not as we know it. The first fossils of multicellular organisms, known as the Ediacara fauna, represent life forms very different of anything living today. After the Cambrian explosion, fossils show more familiar Bauplans. However, deposits like the Burgess shale revealed that in that period too, organisms thrived in the oceans unlike anything living today.
Lecture 10. Crises and opportunities. During the Palaeozoic, two mass extinctions occurred. The third major extinction wave, the largest ever recorded, signified the end of the era. About the possible causes of the various mass extinctions, the devastation they caused, and the opportunities provided during the aftermath.
Theme 4: Tree of life
Lecture 11. Genealogy of living organisms. From single cell to higher organisms.
Lecture 12. Stromatolites, a singular visual portal into deep time on earth, the emergence of life, and the evolving of the beautiful forms of life of modern time
Lecture 13. Modelling gene-regulation and cell-movement in early development of the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis and the scleractinian coral Acropora mellipora.
Theme 5: Evolution towards land
Lecture 14. A Tree of Plants: From a blue to a green planet
Lecture 15: on the emergence of insects from crustaceans
Lecture 16. Evolution of Chordata: there is something fishy about us.
Lecture 17. To boldly go where no vertebrate has gone before. During the Devonian the vertebrates started exploring and exploiting the land. A massive change, leading to a number of adaptation to deal with the hostile environment outside the water.
This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.
Lectures: 16 lectures of 1.5 hours in 8 evenings
Excursion: 2 weeks
Literature reading & practical work: during the excursion
Assignments & final essay: to be completed at the end of the excursion
5% Active in-class participation assessed through interactive engagement with course material
10% Blog-reports of each lecture via Blackboard (100-200 words) due weeks 23-24
5% Oral reports in the form of a classroom presentation in groups of 2, due weeks 34-35
80% Final report on excursion assignments consisting of Marine Biology (30%), DNA Laboratory experiment (20%) and Geology (30%) due week 35 (final day of excursion)
Blackboard and uSis
Blackboard will not be used in this course. Information about the course will be distributed via Dropbox.
Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.
Marine biology, Jeffrey S. Levinton, Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 2008, ISBN13: 978-0-19-532694-9
An Introduction to the Earth-Life System, edited by Charles Cockell (Charles Cockell, Richard Corfield, Neil Edwards, and Nigel Harris). ISBN: 9870521729536 (paperback versie), jaar van uitgave 2007.
The world’s beaches. A global guide to the science of the shoreline, O.H. Pilkey, W.J. Neal, J.T. Kelley and J.A.G. Cooper. University of California Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-520-26872-2.
Library books, covering the various aspects of the excursion, will be made available during the field course.
Enrolling in this course is possible from Tuesday November 6th until Thursday November 15th 23.59 hrs through the Honours Academy, via this link.
It is not necessary to register in uSis.
In case of extra available places, this course will be open to interested students from the Faculty of Science who are not enrolled in an honours programme. The maximum number of students is 25.