Overview

Non technical summary

We want to know why and how some of the largest animal groups first appear in some of the oldest rocks we know about, and how these animals have changed through time since their beginning and until this day. To do so, we study animal remains present in many 500,000,000 year old rocks around the world, and work out what they tell us about their families. Language editing made possible by the Up-Goer Five Text Editor.

Technical summary

The Paleozoic (meaning ancient life) represents the longest – and arguably one of the most critical – of the geologic eras that comprise the Phanerozoic (meaning apparent life), as it witnessed the origin of most of the animal phyla that constitute the modern biosphere. Most of our research focuses on the evolution of invertebrate animals during the Lower Paleozoic, as this time is characterized by an unusual abundance of fossiliferous deposits with soft-tissue preservation. These exceptional localities, formally known as Konservat-Lagerstätten, contain the remains of ancient animals that are otherwise underrepresented in the conventional rock record by virtue of lacking biomineralized hard parts such as shells or teeth. We fundamentally employ a fossil-based approach to scrutinize the ancestral organization of these extinct organisms, which allow us to tackle macroevolutionary topics such as the origin of major body plans, the evolution of internal organs, and the diversity of extinct animal groups through deep time.

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Simplified phylogeny of Ecdysozoa; worm-like lobopodians include ancestors of all panarthropod phyla - Ortega-Hernández 2015, Current Biology 25, R873.