Millions of years ago the ancient continent of Gondwanaland stretched across what is now southern Africa, South America, Australia and Antarctica. Evidence of this can be proved geologically and by examining the fossil record. The fossil record from these continents also provides evidence of the world’s most devastating mass extinction event that took place at the end of the Permian Period 252 million years ago. At this time up to 96% of all marine animals and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrate species became extinct.
Prof Roger Smith is testing the theory that global warming caused the total breakdown of terrestrial ecosystems at that time. He will explain how to find and excavate fossil bones from rock outcrops in Antarctica at high altitude, and under the most hostile and unpredictable conditions on earth. He will also show us evidence that he has collected from both Southern Africa and Antarctica that supports his findings.
Roger Smith is a field geologist and vertebrate palaeontologist specialising in rocks and fossils of the Karoo. He is based at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town and travels widely. He has participated in several collaborative research ventures in Eritrea, Niger, Lesotho, Namibia, Madagascar and Antarctica mostly funded by the American National Science Foundation and the National Geographical Society. This has allowed him to extend the search area for Karoo fossil faunas out of the Karoo basin and into the peripheral rift valleys. These studies are ongoing and he has recently returned from an excavation in Zambia.
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