Palaeobiodiversity: A History of the World in 100 Animals (ARC2517)

15 credits

With the rise of global trade, animals have found it increasingly easy to move beyond their natural range and, since the early 1800s, the number of ‘alien’ species has risen sharply, often to the detriment of ‘native’ populations. However, human manipulation of faunal distributions is not an exclusively modern phenomenon: it has been happening for millennia. For reasons of fear, suspicion, desire or simply inadvertently, certain species have been brought to extinction. In their place, new animals have been introduced: some transported purposefully by invading populations, others sent as royal gifts from far off lands, whilst several species arrived as stowaways. The story of each is fascinating, telling us about past human migration, trade, behaviour and worldview. In addition to this evidence for ancient bio-cultural change, paleobiodiversity studies generate data of vital relevance to present-day wildlife management, conservation and even ‘re-wilding’ policies.

The module will be taught assuming no prior knowledge of Human-Animal-Environment Studies, Palaeobiodiversity or the methods used in these fields.