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Unravelling the scenario of early vertebrate evolution through computational analysis of the fossil record

Objective

Debate over the origin of vertebrate bodyplan has occupied biologists and palaeontologists alike for centuries but discussions around this topic have been hindered because living vertebrates are unrepresentative of the ancestral lineages in which the bodyplan was established. Major transitions in early vertebrate evolution have been correlated with a long-term ecological trend from suspension feeding towards increasingly active lifestyles. However, most previous morpho-functional interpretations largely rely on speculation and these ecological explanations of evolutionary events have generally been regarded as untestable as theories. The recent emergence of new virtual techniques in palaeobiology provides for the first time the opportunity to perform rigorous computational and physical examination to test these hypotheses. In this context, the overall aim of my research programme is the joint application of an array of state-of-the-art techniques in palaeobiology to fossil stem-gnathostomes in order to elucidate the ecological scenarios in which the major groups of vertebrates emerged and to shed light onto the underlying selective forces that drove the main evolutionary transitions of the group. For this, the whole morphological diversity and disparity of early vertebrates will be analysed from a functional, temporal and phylogenetic perspective, using Geometric Morphometrics, scanning surface-based technologies, non-destructive X-ray computed tomography, Computational Fluid Dynamic simulations, physical hydrodynamic experiments and several methods for macroevolutionary analysis. This research programme will allow me to establish myself as a world-class independent interdisciplinary researcher by providing a portfolio of high profile publications in international peer-reviewed journals, a world-class suite of interdisciplinary skills, and a world class research programme that will allow me to establish myself as an authority in the field.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/evolutionary biology
  • /medical and health sciences/clinical medicine/radiology/medical imaging/computed tomography

Call for proposal

H2020-MSCA-IF-2018
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF

Coordinator

UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL
Address
Beacon House Queens Road
BS8 1QU Bristol
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 212 933,76