College of Arts and Sciences

Distinguished Lecturer: Ben Dattilo

"Misreading the Fossil Record"Pic of Dattilo

Benjamin Dattilo
Associate Professor of Geology
Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne

Friday, April 17, 2015
Walb Student Union
International Ballroom B

12:00 p.m.

Ancient sediments and the fossils they contain are a record of the past, but “reading” the record works more like forensic investigation. Modern processes serve as a guide, so problems arise when sediments come from environments that no longer exist, when sedimentary processes take longer than a lifetime to complete, or when a fossil organism has left no descendants. In these cases, it is easy to misinterpret the evidence, and a single, microscopic oversight can cascade into sweeping misinterpretations. Ben Dattilo from IPFW’s Department of Geosciences will use examples of long-standing puzzles from his research on a 450 million-year-old continental sea to illustrate how to read and how not to read the fossil record.


Ben Dattilo, Associate Professor of Geology, has been at Indiana University—Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) since 2007. He received his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Cincinnati in 1994. His research emphasis is on the complex interaction between time, environment, and life that created the sedimentary record of the inland seas. Rather than concentrating on a single investigative technique, Dattilo has concentrated his research efforts on the Upper Ordovician (450 million years old) deposits of the Cincinnati region. By taking the time to understand one system very well, he can approach problems from multiple points of view and has employed a number of techniques to solve long-standing mysteries in fossil-rich rocks that have been studied intensely for over 100 years.

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