Palaeobiosphere Evolution

This research programme aims to study the evolution of non-human life forms in the past and to document the biodiversity changes and the biosphere and geosphere interactions in specifically selected pre-Quaternary sedimentary basins. Its mission is to integrate knowledge and experience in relation to the evolution of fossil biota, palaeoecosystem dynamics, palaeobiogeographic distribution and physical and chemical proxies applied in sedimentary basin analysis into a multidisciplinary investigation strategy.

This strategy will be performed on critical events in the History of Life, which generally relate to periods of enhanced environmental perturbation and evolutionary stress. Intrinsically, there is sufficient potential within the research pool to become one of the major players on the international stage in the fields of fossil vertebrate evolution, biostratigraphy, palaeoclimate reconstruction, mass extinction events and pre-Quaternary sea-level variations.

Research axes

This axis will investigate the evolution and dynamics of marine palaeoecosystems during critical periods in the History of Life on Earth, through the integration of palaeobiological, geophysical and geochemical information. It will contribute to the current global warming debate through monitoring the effects of long-term greenhouse and icehouse conditions and of short-term global warming events (= hyperthermals) on marine ecosystems in the past. Through the monitoring of evolutionary changes in marine biota (biozonations), of sedimentological phenomena and physical and geochemical characteristics (resistivity measurements, gamma ray emission, magnetic susceptibility), the projects linked to this axis will also document and refine the Geological Time Scale across Stage Boundaries and special bio-events.
This axis will investigate the evolution and dynamics of terrestrial vertebrate faunas during critical periods in the History of Life on Earth, through the integration of palaeobiological, geophysical and geochemical information. It will unravel the palaeoenvironmental/extraterrestrial conditions and causes triggering the diversification, evolution and extinction of selected vertebrate clades. The effects of the physical environment on terrestrial tetrapod behavior (e.g. adaptations, selective migration flows of mammals, dinosaurs,..) will also be studied.
Through the holistic study of major fossil localities, this axis will investigate key events in the evolution of organisms, linked to the conquest of completely new ecological niches, including the environmental causes, evolutionary processes, and morphological consequences.
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