Second Year Talks: Dietary specialisation and partitioning amongst terrestrial microvertebrates of the early Medozoic and Early metazoan evolution and the origin of animal multicellularity

26 February 2021, 12.00 PM - 26 February 2021, 1.00 PM

Sofia Chambi-Trowell, University of Bristol and Eleonora Rossi, University of Bristol

Dietary specialisation and partitioning amongst terrestrial microvertebrates of the early Mesozoic

The Late Triassic saw the appearances of many modern vertebrate lineages in the fossil record, and the End Triassic Mass Extinction (ETME) event saw a major turnover in the faunal composition of terrestrial ecosystems. The superficial morphology of fossil species – such as tooth shape, enamel thickness and the size of the adductor chambers, for example – can give us some idea of their dietary ecology, but when combined with biomechanical analyses of the jaws and teeth we gain a clearer and more holistic view over their dietary ecology. Yet despite this not much is known about the dietary ecology of these early ecosystems, with biomechanical analyses of the jaws and teeth of the microvertebrate reptiles from these ecosystems being near non-existent. Focusing on two different sites encompassing ETME – the Triassic-Jurassic Bristol Archipelago and the Caturrita formation of Brazil – this project aims to tackle just that.

Early metazoan evolution and the origin of animal multicellularity

The evolutionary history of early metazoans (i.e. Porifera, Ctenophora, Cnidaria, and Placozoa) is complex, difficult to investigate, and involves organisms very different from each other, which need an individual and detailed approach. I will start using transcriptomic and genomic data to reconstruct the phylogeny of the Phylum Porifera, to clarify the position of this early-branching lineage. Moreover, to better understand the fossil record of the Precambrian, I will investigate the process of biosilification, being the spicules of the sponges one of the first biomineralized structures in the animal kingdom. I will use a molecular approach to identify the genes involved in this process, and how are they responsible for the spicules diversity that sponges present. Finally, I will use Single Cell RNA-seq data in a phylogenomic framework, to explain the diversity of cell types and their evolutionary history.

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