Tuesday Noon Balloon with John Flynn


Exploration of the Chilean Andes: Evolution of South American Mammals, Environments, and Mountains

John Flynn

Tuesday February 16th
Room 417 Schermerhorn Hall


Summary: South America was an island continent for most of the past 80 million years, from its separation from most other Pangean landmasses in the Late Cretaceous until the beginning of its full reconnection with North America via the Isthmus of Panama during the Pliocene. This long-term isolation produced a highly peculiar terrestrial biota, the paleontologically best known component of which is a diverse array of native mammals (marsupials, edentates, primates, rodents, and numerous ‘ungulate’ groups). Recently discovered deposits in the Andes Mountains of Chile, containing terrestrial mammal fossils, together with multidisciplinary studies of classical sequences, have yielded new insights into the biotic and environmental history of South America. Notable advances include documentation of the oldest mammalian faunas dominated by grazing taxa (suggesting the appearance of grasslands at least 15 million years earlier than on other continents), evidence of early biogeographic provinciality within South America, and substantial revisions to understanding of Andean uplift history.

John FlynnJohn Flynn is Adjuct Professor of paleontology in the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, and Dean of the museum's Richard Gilder Graduate School.  John's research specialty is mammalian paleontology and paleomagnetism.  He has traveled the globe searching for important new fossil mammal localities, and strives to develop better ways to read the age of rocks and fossils, leading to more accurate geological time scales. In addition to his work in the Andes Mountains of Chile (the topic of this week's Noon Balloon), John also conducts field programs in the Amazon Basin of Perú, and Mesozoic deposits of Madagascar and India.  His other fields of interest include systematics and biogeography and relationships between environmental and faunal changes through time. 

John completed his undergraduate degree in Geology & Geophysics at Yale.  He received his Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from Columbia University in 1983. Although he is based at the American Museum of Natural History, which has excellent recent and fossil mammal collections, biochemical laboratories (for DNA sequencing), and morphometrics/image analysis laboratories, his research (and that of his students) is also bolstered by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory's paleomagnetism laboratory and numerous Isotope geochemistry laboratories.

Future talks are scheduled for Tuesdays from 12:15-1:00pm in Room 417 Schermerhorn Hall.  Attendees are welcome to bring their lunch.

All are welcome to attend!