Fossils in time and space: lithostratigraphy, biostratigraphy, chronostratigraphy, paleoecology, paleobiogeography.
Taphonomy and the quality of the fossil record.
The evolutionary process and the fossil record: speciation, macroevolution, diversity.
Scientific models of the origin of life: spontaneous generation, extraterrestrial origins, biochemical model, hydrothermal model.
Evidence for the origin of life: the Early Precambrian world, the great oxygenation event, the universal tree of life, Precambrian Prokaryotes (cyanobacteria, stromatolites), biomarkers.
Empire of the Eukaryotes: characters, multicellularity and sex, architecture, evolution and diversification.
The first multicellular animals (Metazoan) of the Ediacarian fauna.
The origin of the Protists, unicellular Eukaryotes with a mineralized skeleton (acritarchs, dinoflagellates, foraminifera, radiolaria).
The Cambrian radiation: Metazoan diversification (brachiopods, bryozoans, echinoderms, mollusks, sponges, corals, arthropods), significance of early shells, Cambrian food webs, the origin of vertebrates.
Major Paleozoic events: Ordovician radiation (cephalopods, conodonts, corals, graptolites, ostracods, stromatoporoids, trilobites, crinoids), rise of fishes, evolution of reefs, early land plants and forests, terrestrialization of animals, origin of tetrapods (reptiles, amphibians), Carboniferous coal-swamp forests, rise and diversification of insects, origin of mammals.
Major Mesozoic events: marine revolution, origin and radiation of angiosperms, rise of birds.
Major Cenozoic events: radiation of mammals, rise of modern land plants, early primates, hominid evolution and neandertals.
Mass extinctions and biodiversity loss: definition, pattern and timing, selectivity, periodicity, recovery.
Highlights on the major mass extinction events: end-Ordovician, Late Devonian, end-Triassic, Permo-Triassic, Cretaceous-Paleogene, Eocene-Oligocene.
Causes of mass extinctions: meteorite impact, massive vulcanism, sea-level change, marine anoxia, global warming, global cooling, Strangelove ocean (decrease of the primary productivity in the ocean).
The evolutionary role of mass extinctions: disaster, recovery and something in-between, and implication for the future.
Students will actively participate through performing practical exercises on selected case-studies.