Primary research interest

  • Evolutionary developmental biology of land vertebrates

Researcher biography

I use quantitative analysis of large-scale datasets to develop and test hypotheses regarding the historical and developmental rules under which vertebrate morphological diversity evolves. My current main interests are:

  • The role that skeletal development plays in restricting mammalian (and general vertebrate) skeletal diversity and
  • Linking developmental regularities of brain growth with the evolution of the tremendous size of the mammalian brain.

Australia is the only continent whose mammal fauna is dominated by marsupials (e.g. kangaroos and koalas) and monotremes (platypus and echidnas). Unlike placentals, these two groups are born at a highly immature stage, a difference that is known to fundamentally impact on the evolutionary trajectories of morphological diversity. To understand the details of this interaction, I am taking advantage of the easy availability of marsupials and monotremes in Australia to collect large-scale data on their development and diversity. I employ a wide range of data collection methods, including CT scanning, dissection, morphometrics, histology, and chemical staining. I then quantitatively analyse and interpret these data using perspectives gained from embryology, life history, physiology, ecology and palaeontology.