Overview

Life has a deep history. Its origins lie more than 3000-million years ago, and the time since has been defined by constant change: lineages have transformed, split, and become extinct over geological time, and life itself has terraformed our planet. All of this is the result of evolution. The videos below explore the evolution of life in deep time, from its origins and the earliest known fossils, through major evolutionary transitions, to the ecosystems around today.

You can find eight topics in this area linked below. Select one to begin, or you can click on the banner below for a more comprehensive introduction, including an overview of each topic.

Introduction banner

An introduction to evolution

Evolution 101

This site – aimed at first year undergraduates from a wide range of backgrounds, including those without biology A-level – introduces the basics of evolution.

Milestones in evolution

Milestones in evolution

Before we learn more about evolution, let's get a handle on the history of life. This site provides an overview of important evolutionary milestones in the first 3000-million years of life. This, and all subsequent sites, are written for second year undergraduates.

Macroevolution

Macroevolution

How do lineages evolve over tens of millions of years? This session looks into the patterns and processes of evolution in deep time, and across the tree of life.

Extinction

Extinction

Here we chart the history of extinctions over geological time, mass extinctions in the past, and the currently occurring mass extinction.

Palaeoecology

Palaeoecology

This site provides an introduction to ecology in deep time: both of fossil species, and of extinct communities.

Conservation Palaeobiology

At a time when human activities are impacting on every part of the biosphere, the fossil record can provide context for – and help us – conserve living species.

Palaeobiogeography

Palaeobiogeography

How are fossils distributed in time and space? What can this tell is?

Evolution of Terrestrial Life

Evolution of Terrestrial Life

Life started in the ocean. In this lecture we see how, and when, life evolved to live on land.