Collaborative Research: Tempo and Mode of Diversification in Vertebrates
Biologists have long sought explanations for why some groups of species on Earth are so much more diverse than others. This project will study the way that new species have formed and changed across different vertebrate groups throughout the history of life. New statistical methods will be developed to measure rates of speciation, extinction, and trait change across the jawed vertebrates, a large group of animals that includes fishes, mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Using new information obtained from NSF's Assembling the Tree of Life program, the project will identify groups with unusually high diversity and test potential explanations for these "evolutionary explosions."
This project will investigate the forces influencing evolutionary change over the past 500 million years of vertebrate history. Describing evolution at this scale will give us a broader understanding of life over time in general, and will be of great interest to many scientific fields. A number of educational outreach activities will be conducted with this grant, including interactions with a local science center, involvement of regional public schools, and coordination of a workshop for graduate students from around the world.