EP116 Doug Erwin on the Cambrian Explosion

Doug Erwin talks to Jim about his book, The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity

Doug Erwin

Doug Erwin talks to Jim about his book, The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity. They cover the unprecedentedly rapid evolution of life seen during the Cambrian explosion (approx 540 million BCE), archeological dating techniques & accuracy, micro-evolution vs macro-evolution, environmental potential, ecological opportunity and challenges, genetic/developmental contexts, continental landmass locations, pre-Cambrian multicellularity, ocean oxygen levels, snowball earth epoch, predation as an evolutionary driver, changes in species physical sizes, development of circulatory systems and neurons, brain evolution, niche construction & ecosystem engineering, evolutionary investment strategies, Cambrian taxonomic diversity, the Fermi paradox, and much more.

Episode Transcript

Doug Erwin is currently Senior Scientist and Curator of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D. C, and has been since 1990 and has been a Senior Scientist since 2004. His primary research interests are in evolutionary novelty and innovation across biological, cultural and technological domains; the evolution of animal regulatory genomes; the origin and early evolution of animals; and the end-Permian mass extinction. Various field projects have taken Doug repeatedly to China, South Africa and Namibia, and he has done geological field work in various other regions as well. Erwin received an A.B. from Colgate University in 1980 and a Ph. D from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1985. He is the author or editor of a number of books. At SFI, he has been a Resident faculty member (part-time), Chair of the Science Steering Committee, Chair of Faculty, and is now a member of the External faculty.