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Research in our lab is guided by an interest in the evolution of birds and other vertebrates, and a conviction that combining insights from living species and the fossil record 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.


Related papers: 

Lowi-Merri et al. 2023Chiappe, Navalón et al. 2022; Benito et al. 2022aDucatez & Field 2021; Brocklehurst & Field 2021; Dawson et al. 2020Ksepka et al. 2020Saupe et al. 2019Field et al. 2018aFaux and Field 2017Dumont et al. 2016Feo et al. 2015


Comparative vertebrate anatomy

Imaging advances have revolutionised the study of vertebrate morphology. We apply high resolution visualisation methods to study the evolution of form and function in several vertebrate groups.

Related papers: 

Widrig et al. 2023; Kuo et al. 2023Steell et al. 2023Burton et al. 2023; Lowi-Merri et al. 2023Benito et al. 2022a; Benito et al. 2022bDemuth et al. 2022; Louchart et al. 2021; Watanabe et al. 2021; Field et al. 2020aField et al. 2018aBalanoff et al. 2016Dumont et al. 2016Bever et al. 2015Field 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.


Related papers: 

Ksepka et al. 2023Widrig & Field 2022; Benito et al. 2022bField et al. 2020a; Field 2020b; Chen & Field 2020Oliveros et al. 2019Musser et al. 2019; Chen et al. 2019Kimball et al. 2019; Berv and Field 2018; Field & Hsiang 2018Prum et al. 2015Field et al. 2014

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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.


Related papers: 

Brocklehurst et al. 2024; Benito et al. 2022aHughes et al. 2021; Field et al. 2020aField et al. 2018bBerv and Field 2018Prum et al. 2015Longrich et al. 2011

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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.


Related papers: 

Pimiento et al. 2024; Gayford et al. 2023Hughes et al. 2021Klein et al. 2021Pimiento et al. 2019Field et al. 2017Field et al. 2015Hsiang et al. 2015Bever et al. 2015Field et al. 2014Longrich et al. 2012Field et al. 2011

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Reconstruction of neonate mosasaurs;

Field et al. 2015. © Julius Csotonyi

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