Next week commences the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Darwin Day celebration, one of the longest student-run organizations in the world (active since 1997)! Every year a different theme is picked to highlight major aspects of evolutionary biology, and this year we will be celebrating paleontology. We are happy to be hosting world-famous fish paleontologist and science communicator, Neil Shubin, as our keynote speaker! He will be delivering his talk on "Your Inner Fish" on Thursday, February 11, which will be followed by a book-signing. Please join us for what will likely be our biggest Darwin Day ever!
UT Darwin Day is free to the public and features a series of science education talks on different aspects of paleontology (see image above), a birthday party for Darwin at the McClung Museum, a Teacher's Workshop, and field trips to provide experiential learning with fossil specimens! Check out one of the 75 fossil kits that has been prepared for teachers in the South East region of the USA, as part of a "Teaching Evolution Without Tears" lesson plan: https://www.facebook.com/chuck.darwin/posts/10208643533793845
Thank you to the UT Darwin Day Organizing Committee for inviting me to deliver one of the Brown Bag Lunch lectures, where I will share the state-of-the-art in reconstructing how extinct animals might have moved when they were alive. Oh, and I was told there would be free cookies. A summary of my talk is as follows:
"Fossils are important ‘time capsules’ that reveal clues about the evolutionary history of life. They can appear as bone remains or even footprints, but how is this information used to learn about the behavior of an animal that has been dead for hundreds of millions of years? To answer this question, some scientists have combined a variety of cutting-edge approaches in engineering, mathematics, and biology to calculate how the body powers movements. This field of research is called biomechanics and involves representing animals as ‘living machines’ so that the body parts are simplified to mechanical parts that can be described using principles from physics and engineering. In this talk, I will describe how the biomechanics of living animals have provided insights into interpreting the biology of ancient life. Specifically, fishes and salamanders are often used to model how vertebrate animals left their aquatic habitats to take their first steps onto land almost 400 million years ago. Recent studies have suggested that the limbs of salamanders are better capable of supporting weight on land than the fins of a semi-aquatic fish, and that the forelimbs are stronger than the hind limbs. Combined with information from the fossil record, these findings help explain how functional differences between fins and limbs may have impacted how vertebrate animals became terrestrial. Together, these studies demonstrate how integrating the biomechanics of living animals with the anatomy of fossils has been a powerful tool to breathe life in fossils and learn about the evolutionary past."
More information about UT Darwin Day can be found here: http://darwindaytn.org/
Media coverage of the event are featured at: