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:
Book list
Photosynthesis and Respiration

  1. Soft-bodied fossils that belong to me, several are from Ron Evans. Generally you have to go to Lagerstaetten to find such fossils.

  2. 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.

  3. The Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley. This has many nice features including: Geological Eras 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Nearctica's page on Archaea is quite good. These "funny bugs" live in extreme environments.

  8. Halobacteria have diphytanyl ether membranes. Here are some course notes about Halobacteria from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

  9. The Curious Microbe: Radiation a page about Deinococcus radiodurans, which can repair its DNA and survive high levels of radioactivity.

  10. Frontier Sciences -- Margulis a page about the works of Lynn Margulis.

  11. 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."

  12. World of Richard Dawkins a page about the ideas and writings of Richard Dawkins.

  13. Stephen Jay Gould from the perspective of Dawkins many links.

  14. 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.

  15. Architecture and Evolution by Robert Mark -- a discussion of the famous "Spandrel" paper by Gould and Lewontin.

  16. Microfossils are very important in understanding the Precambrian fossil record.

  17. Cyanobacteria are responsible for putting oxygen into the atmosphere, and are evidently very old.

  18. Hopane 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.

  19. 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.

  20. Some published works on Biochemical Evolution -- basically an anti-Creationist site but with many good links.

  21. Danny Yee reviews Evolution books.