Walking through time: The secrets of evolution

20 May 2019

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19:30

The Sister Brussels Café

Rue chair et pain 3, 1000 Brussels

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3€

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Life as we know it is the product of billions of years of evolution. Have you ever looked at your wrist and thought about how it evolved? Our scientists track the path that primate wrist development took, and take you on a journey through time to study dinosaur evolution. These studies can tell us what Planet Earth might have looked like millions of years ago, and can explain how and why we evolved the dexterous wrists that we see in humans today.

Shaking hands with primates

Marie Vanhoof

Assistant of Anatomy

While some species, like the gibbon, need a very mobile wrist to be able to swing from branch to branch; other species need a wrist that is stable enough to support their body weight, like the chimpanzee who walks on his knuckles. Modern humans don’t walk this way anymore, but we use our hands a lot more in manipulation of objects, making and using tools, etc. Is there a link between the shape of the wrist bones, the mobility of the wrist and the specific behavior of each species? What differences in wrists can we see between species? And what does this tell us about ourselves?

KU Leuven

Slicing life into dinosaurs: what fossil bone tissues and cells tell us about extinct reptiles

Koen Stein

Paleontologist

Cutting precious fossils might sound like a nightmare for museum curators, but studying fossil bone tissues informs about the growth and physiology of long extinct animals. Dinosaurs are the best example: Were they warm blooded? How did the sauropods (the giant long necked dinosaurs) grow so big?” Most recently, we figured out that not only microstructures preserve in millions of years old bones, but also biomolecules such as proteins and fatty acids. A Jurassic Park narrative remains science fiction, but these biomolecules have a high potential to teach us more about the biology and evolutionary interrelationships of animals long gone.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel & Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

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