One of the most salient patterns in biology is that diversity is not distributed evenly among clades. In mammals, groups like rodents and bats have evolved astonishingly high levels of phenotypic diversity, have radiated into thousands of species, and span a wide variety of ecological niches, all the while other mammal groups are morphologically homogeneous and species-poor. We are interested in understanding how these disparities in diversity arise, and approach this task by piecing together the connections among morphology, performance, behavior and ecology to gain a better understanding of ecomorphological mechanisms leading to radiation. By doing this work within a broad comparative context, we are able to test hypotheses about adaptations and diversification, and answer questions such as:
- How does morphological diversity map onto functional and performance diversity?
- What is the impact of behavior and its plasticity in the evolution of performance and morphology?
- What is the role of ecomorphology in shaping ecological communities and local diversity?
- How prevalent is ecological diversification in bats and other mammals?
Our work involves collection of data in the field from free-ranging animals, including bite force and feeding behavior, along with lab techniques to capture morphology such as micro-CT scanning, laser scanning, dissections, geometric morphometrics, biomechanical modeling, finite element analyses and phylogenetic comparative methods.
Some of our current projects include: