Research in our lab is guided by an interest in the evolution of birds and other vertebrates, and a conviction that combining insights from the fossil record and living species will help unravel the mysteries of vertebrate evolution.
Origins of modern bird characteristics
How did key avian features like feathers, flight, enlarged brains, a toothless beak, warm-bloodedness, and even present-day geographic distributions arise? We are interested in applying cutting-edge approaches to these classic macroevolutionary questions.
Comparative vertebrate anatomy
Imaging advances have revolutionised palaeobiology. We apply high resolution visualisation methods to study the evolution of form and function in several vertebrate groups.
Benito et al. 2022; Demuth et al. 2022; Louchart et al. 2021; Watanabe et al. 2021; Field et al. 2020a; Field et al. 2018a; Balanoff et al. 2016; Dumont et al. 2016; Bever et al. 2015; Field et al. 2010
Phylogeny and divergence times of birds and other vertebrates
We try to unravel avian phylogenetic interrelationships, and attempt to understand where key fossils sit on the bird tree of life. These efforts aim to resolve several evolutionary mysteries related to how and when modern bird diversity arose. Our work has suggested that the modern bird group is younger than long-assumed, with many major groups arising rapidly in the early Cenozoic.
Widrig & Field 2022; Field et al. 2020a; Field 2020b; Chen & Field 2020; Oliveros et al. 2019; Musser et al. 2019; Chen et al. 2019; Kimball et al. 2019; Berv and Field 2018; Field & Hsiang 2018; Prum et al. 2015; Field et al. 2014
Phylogenomic estimate of avian phylogeny; Prum et al. 2015.
Evolution across mass extinctions
The end-Cretaceous (K–Pg) mass extinction dramatically affected vertebrate life worldwide. We are interested in deciphering how this event affected birds and other vertebrates through fieldwork and lab-based studies.
Reconstruction of a hypothetical avian survivor of the K–Pg extinction; Field et al. 2018. © Phil Krzeminsky
Similar questions in other vertebrate clades
We study the evolution of anatomy and diversification patterns in other (non-bird) groups as well, such as sharks, whales, snakes, mosasaurs, turtles, and non-avian dinosaurs.
Reconstruction of neonate mosasaurs;
Field et al. 2015. © Julius Csotonyi