Links that relate to the Wonderful Life course:
I am hoping to focus my part of the course mainly on the Precambrian period, ranging from
4.5 billion years ago to 550 million years ago to the extent that that is possible. The
evidence for life in this period obviously has nothing to do with dinosaur bones or
ammonite shells, but rather with microfossils and chemical traces. This evidence can be a
little hard to understand. Many of the links below deal with how paleontologists work with
the ancient rocks. Of course we will also "leak" into the Cambrian, with Gould's
"Wonderful Life" and other books dealing with later periods, but the Precambrian will be
the foundation on which that part is built. -- Frank Deis
Related web pages:
Photosynthesis and Respiration
- Soft-bodied fossils that belong to me, several
are from Ron Evans. Generally you have to go to Lagerstaetten to find such
- Stromatolites are some of the earliest visible fossils. This is an interesting review from the Hooper Virtual Museum.
you should also check out Theoretical Paleontology and
the other exhibits there.
- The Museum of
Paleontology at UC Berkeley. This has many nice features including:
which the class will have to learn, with approximate dates. On the page you can click on
any era for more information about it. Cyanobacteria,
Architects of the earth's atmosphere are discussed both as living species and as fossil Stromatolites.
- When you have learned the names of the periods of geological time, you can
put them to use on a geological map of New Jersey. If you have Adobe Acrobat
you can view a map for free, or print it out on a color printer. It is
available from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
- Journey into the World
of Cladistics. Cladistics provides valuable tools for establishing taxonomic relationships
between species, and even deciding whether variants are separate species or the same.
- Life's First
Scalding Steps, an article from Science News about the ideas of Günter
Wächtershäuser, who thinks that the earliest living cells came from a hot sulfide
rich environment on the ocean floor.
page on Archaea is quite good. These "funny bugs" live in extreme environments.
- Halobacteria have diphytanyl ether membranes. Here are some
course notes about Halobacteria from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
Curious Microbe: Radiation a page about Deinococcus radiodurans, which can repair
its DNA and survive high levels of radioactivity.
- Frontier Sciences --
Margulis a page about the works of Lynn Margulis.
- Christian de
Duve, a Nobel prize winning scientist, has qualms about the RNA World hypothesis.
This is an article from American Scientist called "The beginnings of life on Earth."
- World of Richard Dawkins a
page about the ideas and writings of Richard Dawkins.
- Stephen Jay
Gould from the perspective of Dawkins many links.
Review of "Rocks of Ages", a book by Stephen Jay Gould,
describes the NOMA concept -- that science and religion
constitute "Non-Overlapping MAgisteria." In other words, arguments between science and
religion inherently don't make any sense. The review is worth reading.
and Evolution by Robert Mark -- a discussion of the famous
"Spandrel" paper by
Gould and Lewontin.
- Microfossils are very
important in understanding the Precambrian fossil record.
- Cyanobacteria are
responsible for putting oxygen into the atmosphere, and are evidently very old.
structures -- these are interesting because Cyanobacteria make them. Cyanobacteria
are very close to Chloroplasts. Hopanes are pentacyclic and similar to the tetracyclic
Steroid nucleus. These have been found in extremely ancient sediments, 3.7 billion years
old. Does that mean that Cyanobacteria are actually that old? Possibly.
- Banded Iron deposits like this one in Australia are always roughly two
billion years old. They tell us that oxygen entering the atmosphere was
making the iron salts precipitate from the world's oceans. The oxygen was
produced by photosynthesis, and the Hamersley rocks contain biomarkers.
- Some published
works on Biochemical Evolution -- basically an anti-Creationist site but with many
Danny Yee reviews Evolution books.