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Visiting Speaker Dr. Mary Silcox: "Building a Primate Brain"

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - 3:30pm
Earth Sciences 614

Dr. Mary Silcox. 

Dr. Silcox is a vertebrate paleontologist, specializing on fossil mammals.  She is particularly interested in using the fossil record to understand the earliest phases of primate evolution.  Much of her work centres on the “Plesiadapiformes”, the first adaptive radiation of primates.  Appearing some 65 million years ago, plesiadapiforms diversified into over 140 known species, with a broad range of dietary and locomotor specializations. Particular areas of recent focus include the evolution of the brain in early primates, and clarifying the evolutionary position of Primates in the broader phylogenetic context of Mammalia.

Modern Primates have brains that are relatively large on average compared to those of other mammals.  But have primates always had big brains? This talk will detail what we know about the form of the brain in some of the earliest primates, and consider three inter-related problems: 1) what is primitive for the primate brain; 2) when did brain size begin to increase in the primates; 3) why did it increase?