|Lauren Cole Sallan, PhD|
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Michigan
Michigan Society of Fellows
University of Michigan Webpage
Early Vertebrate Paleobiology,
Mass Extinction, Phylogenetics
Listen to a Palaeocast interview about our research on early vertebrate macroevolution and ecology.
We are interested in long-term biodiversity trends, large-scale ecological dynamics, patterns of diversification, mass extinction, and other macroevolutionary processes. In order to answer major questions about these areas, we apply quantitative and descriptive approaches to the fossil records of Paleozoic vertebrates (half of their history) and ray-finned fishes (half of living diversity).
Modern vertebrate biodiversity began in the Paleozoic, an interval containing both the origins of major living groups (e.g., ray-finned fishes, tetrapods) and major events in their evolutionary history (e.g., the end-Devonian mass extinction and subsequent diversification). This period contains multiple "natural experiments" (e.g., environmental and ecological changes) revealing common patterns of diversification, extinction and morphological evolution.
Ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii) have dominated aquatic ecosystems since the mid-Paleozoic, come in myriad functional forms, and are widely used in evolutionary and ecological research. They also have an excellent fossil record, containing thousands of complete specimens and preserving traits from which function and ecology can be inferred.
Investigation of these two records has already revealed significant macro-evolutionary patterns and processes. These include the role of global events and mass extinction in structuring vertebrate ecosystems and the ecological, environ-mental and even developmental drivers of early and modern biodiversity (see Publications).