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Lewis Thomson: Writing for The Naked Scientists

last modified Nov 17, 2017 12:30 PM

Congratulations to Lewis Thomson for publishing two articles for The Naked Scientists, an award winning science communication team.


Tales of evolution: how fish conquered the land

The vertebrates are an incredibly diverse group of animals, ranging in size from tiny, eight-millimetre frogs to enormous, 30-metre whales. They inhabit all parts of the earth, from the bottom of the ocean to the mountains and skies. Comprising over 60,000 species, the vertebrates can be split into five main groups: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. This three-part series will explore the evolution of the vertebrates, by looking at some of the key evolutionary transitions that took place. Here in part one, we’ll be thinking about how vertebrates moved from the sea onto land, in the fish to amphibian transition.

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Tales of evolution: the rise of the mammals

In part 1 of this series we looked at how our fish ancestors colonised the land 360 million years ago (mya), and gave rise to the early amphibians. Here in part 2 we’ll be looking a bit later in the evolutionary journey, at the transition from reptiles to mammals. 

The early amphibians had several key adaptations that allowed them to thrive on land – including sturdy limbs and air-breathing lungs. However, like almost all modern amphibians, they would have had to lay their eggs underwater – otherwise the eggs would dry out and the offspring would die. This limited them to areas with ponds and rivers. However, one group began to evolve adaptations which were better suited for dry land. They produced hard, waterproof eggs which could be laid on land, allowing them to live in hotter, drier areas. By 320 mya, this group had evolved from amphibians into early reptiles.

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Lewis is a 2016 cohort PhD student in the BBSRC DTP Programme. He is currently researching the evolution of the neuromesodermal progenitor population in the anamniote to amniote transition in the lab of Dr Ben Steventon in the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge. As part of the BBSRC DTP Programme Lewis completed rotation projects in Genetics and in the Department of Zoology with Dr Andrew Gillis. He is currently undertaking his internship (PIPS) with The Naked Scientists.