AREAS OF STUDY

•   Diversification and Macroevolution
•   Evolutionary Morphology
•   Theoretical Phylogenetics
•   Reef Fish Molecular Systematics

The central goal of my research program is to understand the factors that govern the dynamics of evolutionary diversification. Why are some groups morphologically diverse? Does morphological diversity always signal mechanical, functional, or ecological diversity? Are there general laws or themes that can be used to explain the uneven distribution of diversity in physiological traits across lineages? To address these questions, I work largely on marine fishes. My research approach is interdisciplinary and quantitative and crosses traditional boundaries among evolutionary morphology, molecular phylogenetics, and theoretical evolution. I identify and quantify organismal diversity by measuring genome size, morphology, and behavior; construct evolutionary trees and test evolutionary hypotheses using phylogenetic statistical methods; and use models of trait evolution to explore form-function dynamics.

HOW HAS BITING SHAPED CRANIAL EVOLUTION IN ANGUILLIFORMS?

Anguilliforms (eels and their cousins) include roughly 600, mostly predaceous, species. Unlike most other fish which explosively expand the skull and buccal region to suck prey into the mouth, eel rely upon powerful bites from toothy jaws. Our lab is working with Rita Mehta (UC Santa Cruz) and Peter Wainwright (UC Davis) to study how the evolution of biting behavior (and the loss of suction feeding ability) has shaped cranial diversification in anguilliforms.