Expert on whale evolution to give public talk at UO

EUGENE, Ore. -- (April 9, 2009) -- University of Michigan paleontologist Philip D. Gingerich will speak on the origin and early life of whales at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 30, at the University of Oregon. His public lecture is part of a three-day visiting-scholar program hosted by the UO's Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

Gingerich, director of the UM's Museum of Paleontology, has shown that whales evolved from land creatures, walking and giving birth on land before going fulltime into the sea. His work illustrates how evolution is not always directional or progressive but can occur opportunistically as species change in unpredictable ways over long periods of time. Much of work has occurred in Pakistan and Egypt, where his team discovered skeletons linking whales to land mammals.

The UO's Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Kappa -- the nation's oldest and most prestigious honorary society -- will welcome Gingerich on Thursday, April 30. During his stay he will visit undergraduate courses and meet with students and faculty. His public lecture and discussion will be held in 180 Prince Lucien Campbell Hall, 1501 Kincaid St. Admission is free.

"Professor Gingerich is an eminent paleontologist, an expert on evolution," said Ian F. McNeely, professor of history and president of PBK-Alpha. "While his visit is not part of the Darwin bicentennial celebration on campus, we feel his talk complements the spirit of the Darwin series."