Education & Certifications
MSc, University of Toronto, Earth Science (2015)
BSc, Queen's University, Geological Science (2014)
Erik Sperling, Doctoral (Program)
Current Research and Scholarly Interests
My research focuses on the origins and early evolution of macroscopic animal life and the changes to both the geosphere and biosphere during the Neoproterozoic to Paleozoic transition; specifically the Ediacaran Period (635-541 Ma). Due to the paucity of fossil evidence left by Earth’s earliest animals in deep time, I look to incorporate paleo- ecological, geochemical, and database analyses with studies of extant animal physiology to better understand the Ediacaran biostratigraphic record.
- Ediacaran distributions in space and time: testing assemblage concepts of earliest macroscopic body fossils PALEOBIOLOGY 2016; 42 (4): 574-594
- A mixed Ediacaran-metazoan assemblage from the Zaris Sub-basin, Namibia PALAEOGEOGRAPHY PALAEOCLIMATOLOGY PALAEOECOLOGY 2016; 459: 198-208
Biotic replacement and mass extinction of the Ediacara biota.
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
2015; 282 (1814)
The latest Neoproterozoic extinction of the Ediacara biota has been variously attributed to catastrophic removal by perturbations to global geochemical cycles, 'biotic replacement' by Cambrian-type ecosystem engineers, and a taphonomic artefact. We perform the first critical test of the 'biotic replacement' hypothesis using combined palaeoecological and geochemical data collected from the youngest Ediacaran strata in southern Namibia. We find that, even after accounting for a variety of potential sampling and taphonomic biases, the Ediacaran assemblage preserved at Farm Swartpunt has significantly lower genus richness than older assemblages. Geochemical and sedimentological analyses confirm an oxygenated and non-restricted palaeoenvironment for fossil-bearing sediments, thus suggesting that oxygen stress and/or hypersalinity are unlikely to be responsible for the low diversity of communities preserved at Swartpunt. These combined analyses suggest depauperate communities characterized the latest Ediacaran and provide the first quantitative support for the biotic replacement model for the end of the Ediacara biota. Although more sites (especially those recording different palaeoenvironments) are undoubtedly needed, this study provides the first quantitative palaeoecological evidence to suggest that evolutionary innovation, ecosystem engineering and biological interactions may have ultimately caused the first mass extinction of complex life.
View details for DOI 10.1098/rspb.2015.1003
View details for PubMedID 26336166
New Ediacaran fossils from the uppermost Blueflower Formation, northwest Canada: disentangling biostratigraphy and paleoecology
Journal of Paleontology
2015; 89 (2): 281-291
View details for DOI 10.1017/jpa.2014.25