Early Mammal Evolution

The period immediately following the Cretaceous-Palaeogene mass extinction saw the rise of most extant mammalian clades, but these are usually left out of macroevolutionary analyses because of great uncertainty in the relationships of Paleocene forms.  We have conducted extensive phylogenetic analyses of Cretaceous and Paleogene mammals and analysed evolutionary rates and disparity across the K/Pg boundary to elucidate this important period in the evolution of the modern biota.  These studies have demonstrated that placental mammals originated in the latest Cretaceous but experienced an incredible increase in evolutionary rates and morphological disparity in the wake of the K/Pg mass extinction.  With funding from the Leverhulme Trust, we expanded these studies by incorporating genomic data and more recent taxa to compare molecular and morphological evolution and unify these rich and complementary sources of data, demonstrating a discordance between molecular and morphological rates of evolution during the initial diversification of Placentalia. We are also examining diversity dynamics of mammals after correcting for sampling and using these data to reconstruct the evolution of latitudinal biodiversity gradients in deep time.  Finally, we are expanding knowledge of K/Pg mammal evolution with fieldwork in undersampled regions of the world, including India and Argentina

 

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