Tonight’s presentation is titled, "The Myth of the Living Fossil." Our presenter is Dr. Christopher Brochu, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Iowa. He will explain how the crocodylians' evolution bears on fields as diverse as epidemiology and forensics!
Dr. Brochu is a vertebrate paleontologist and systematist who applies phylogenetic methods to understand biodiversity. He is interested in the reciprocal light morphological, genomic, and fossil data can shed on the phylogeny, distribution, and diversity of groups throughout their evolutionary histories.
Most of his laboratory’s work explores the phylogeny and historical biogeography of crocodyliforms – alligators, crocodiles, gharials, and their close relatives. Their low present diversity (23 recognized species) and rich fossil record gives him a rare opportunity to integrate the earth and life sciences. He can synthesize molecular data from all living species with the deep-time perspective directly obtainable only from fossils. Crocodyliform fossils are known from every continent and are ubiquitous in continental and nearshore deposits from the time they first appear in the Jurassic to the present. He can look at biotic responses to climate and tectonic change over a variety of time scales.
Recent projects have focused on derived neosuchians and the origin of Crocodylia in the Late Cretaceous; the diversity and phylogeny of Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic crocodylians in North America and the Neotropics; conflicts over the relationships of crocodyliforms with long, narrow snouts; and the history of crocodylians in Africa and the western Indian Ocean over the past 30 million years.
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