2) Phylogeny and the fossil record
Understanding the basis of macroevolutionary differences using phylogenetic comparative approaches and independent evidence from the fossil record.
One of the goals of evodevo research is to use the understanding of developmental systems and the variation they can generate to understand macroevolutionary phenomena. Often the links to macroevolution are qualitative generalizations. We seek to develop more quantitative links between development and macroevolution. The two main approaches to macroevolution are the paleobiological and the (phylogenetic) comparative approach. Both these fields have seen increasing rigor in the last few decades driven by immense advances in the quality and detail of phylogenetic information, as well as in fossil dating and morphological data that are increasingly available in public databases. We seek to use this information to quantitatively test hypotheses of how developmental and within-species trait variation and evolutionary potential links to evolutionary changes (including among-species variation). We will test how variational properties such as integration, modularity, allometry and canalization correlate with patters of evolutionary change. This will be done by working with specific trait categories, including mammalian teeth and skull characters, leaf and flower morphology in plants. We will also work to test ecological hypotheses about drivers of evolutionary change or causes of stasis including the Red Queen, ecological opportunity and constraints from gene flow. Finally we will work on the development of statistical methods for quantifying macroevolutionary change. This includes process-based models for phylogenetic comparative analysis and fossil time series, and models for quantifying the temporal and spatial distribution of species in the past.