12 October 2023

Winter Lecture: Extinctions – How Life Survives, Adapts, Evolves

Join Professor Michael Benton for the first Winter Lecture of the series as he explores extinctions and discussed how life survives, adapts and evolves.

Palaeontology shows us that many billions of species that once existed are now extinct, and their natural extinctions enabled new species to inherit the Earth.

We identify mass extinctions during which 50–95% of species were killed off, and yet life always recovered. In fact, some of the great diversifications in the history of life were triggered by the opportunities afforded by mass extinctions. So, extinction in the context of modern life, especially the needless slaughter of species by human action or carelessness, is inexcusable. Who does not mourn the loss of the Polynesian tree snail or the dodo?

Palaeontologists of course work on longer time scales and can see how extinction events have released the potential of new groups to show their evolutionary mettle. This is one of the wonders of exploring the geological record but should not allow us to think we can hasten the extinction of any modern species.

In this illustrated lecture, Professor Michael Benton sweeps our earth’s history and brings to life the deep past as never before.

This lecture accompanies Professor Michael Benton’s new book Extinctions: How Life Survives, Adapts and Evolves. There is a change to buy a signed copy of this book when booking an in-person ticket for collection on the night.

Speaker: Michael J. Benton is professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology and head of the world-leading Palaeobiology Research Group at the University of Bristol. He has written more than fifty books, including Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World, The Dinosaurs Rediscovered and When Life Nearly Died, all published by Thames & Hudson. He was awarded an OBE for services to Palaeontology and community engagement, and regularly appears in the media to discuss dinosaurs and understanding the history of life.

Image: CC BY-4.0 (C) Dmitry Bogdanov

Book tickets

Book tickets

Additional information

How to take part

Thanks to the generous sponsorship from the Friends of Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives , this season’s Winter Lectures will be held in person at M Shed.

Please arrive 15 minutes before the advertised start time to take your seat. Parking in the area can be difficult so you may want to allow extra time to find a space if you are driving to the venue.


About the Winter Lectures

Bristol Museums have delivered a Winter Lecture Series between October and April every year since 1948. Past speakers have included many of the leading experts of their time and some famous faces.

Today, the Winter Lectures are sponsored by the Friends of Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives and are free and open to all. Lectures are all connected in some way to Bristol Museum’s amazing collections and cover a range of subjects including geology, natural history, archaeology, art and world cultures.