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Science Series: Fig Wasps: 34 Million Years of Obligate Evolutionary Stasis

20 JANUARY 2021


Zoom Webinar

As part of the SEM Partnerships programme, Dr Alex Ball from the Natural History Museum will talk about his research on fossilised fig wasps and the secrets of evolution that they hide.

This talk demonstrates how studying a tiny group of specimens can give us a huge amount of information about past climatic conditions, about complex evolutionary relationships and also about the process of evolution itself. Dr Ball worked as part of a team of scientists to investigate specimens of fig wasps found as fossils in limestone from the Isle of white and as a single specimen preserved in baltic amber.

The study combined scanning electron microscopy with confocal scanning laser microscopy to create high resolution images of both types of fossils. The images recorded could be directly compared with modern fig wasps using the same techniques, validating both the observations and the choice of technique that was employed.

An unexpected result of this research was that it was seized upon by religious groups who claimed that it provided evidence that evolution was not taking place.

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