Ediacara Biota

Melvyn Bragg and guests Martin Brasier, Richard Corfield and Rachel Wood discuss the Ediacara Biota, the Precambrian life forms which vanished 542 million years ago, and whose discovery proved Darwin right in a way he never imagined. Darwin was convinced that there must have been life before the Cambrian era, but he didn’t think it was possible for fossils like the Ediacara to have been preserved. These sea-bed organisms were first unearthed in the 19th century, but were only recognised as Precambrian in the mid-20th century. This was an astonishing discovery. Ever since, scientists have been working to determine its significance. Were the Ediacara the earliest forms of animal life? Or were they a Darwinian dead end? Either way, it is argued, they reveal some of the secrets of the workings of evolution.

Listen on BBC Sounds website


  • Martin Brasier No other episodes
    Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Oxford
  • Richard Corfield 10 episodes
    Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences at the Open University
  • Rachel Wood No other episodes
    Lecturer in Carbonate Geoscience at the University of Edinburgh

Related episodes

Programme ID: b00lh2s3

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lh2s3

Auto-category: 560 (Paleontology)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, in the 1940s a prospector called Reginald Sprigg was working in southern Australia searching for uranium for Britain's atomic bomb project, when he came across impressions in the rock unlike anything he'd ever seen before.