Second Year Talks: The palaeobiology of the Kuanchuanpu Formation and early animal origins and Using theoretical morphology, functional performance and Pareto optimality to assess the role of function in defining skeletal form
Emily Carlisle, University of Bristol and Will Deakin, University of Bristol
Emily Carlisle (University of Bristol): The palaeobiology of the Kuanchuanpu Formation and early animal origins
The origin of animals has long been a tantalising mystery, but different methods often result in vastly different age measurements. The fossil record demonstrates the presence of most major animal phyla in the Cambrian, but molecular clock analyses suggest they originated in the Ediacaran or Cryogenian. I will be using several methods to estimate when animals originated, starting with examining the fossils present at the Kuanchuanpu Formation, a ~535 million year old Lagerstätte. These can provide insight into which animals were present in the very earliest Cambrian. I will also be using a new model, the Bayesian Brownian Bridge model, to estimate when animal clades originated using fossil and extant species diversity. Previous tests have suggested strong congruence with molecular clock analyses using angiosperms, but whether this is also the case with animal clades is still unknown. Finally, I will be testing fossil calibration schemes for use with molecular clock analyses, examining how different ways of interpreting the fossil record can affect the results
Will Deakin (University of Bristol): Using theoretical morphology, functional performance and Pareto optimality to assess the role of function in defining skeletal form
The study of organismal form (morphology) has been the biologist’s primary tool in characterising variety within and between taxa for centuries. It was through careful characterisation of morphology that Darwin evidenced his theory of evolution by natural selection. Since then, many taxonomic studies have shown the tight relationship between form and function, which forms the basis of the field of functional morphology and biomechanics. However, morphology is not only controlled by function, but also evolutionary history (phylogeny) and the growth of an organism (development). This poses the question: how strong are these functional constraints in defining form, when compared with phylogeny and development? My work so far has been focused on the evolution of the jaw throughout gnathostomes, to try and understand how this structure retains its food processing function across the vast majority of vertebrate species. I have also been measuring the differences between aquatic and flying bird limb shafts. These projects involve the implementation and development of tools such as theoretical morphology, Pareto optimality and the phylomorphospace, combined with large morphological datasets from both extinct and extant species, to try and uncover nomothetic descriptions of the role of function in defining form.
Zoom link: https://bristol-ac-uk.zoom.us/j/96309344441.