Ongoing research

The main research involves 500-370 million year old fossil jawless and jawed vertebrates, which form the stem group of the gnathostomes and thereby documents the gradual emergence of the jawed vertebrate body plan. Based on the conceptual framework that evolutionary change can be inferred through the analysis of character distribution, various groups, such as anaspids, thelodonts and osteostracans, are being investigated to assess their characteristics and the part these played in shaping a morphotypic gnathostome. 

Various projects have also been initiated seeking better understanding of the early evolution of gnathostomes and the origin of osteicthyans. We have substantiated our research efforts by extensive fieldwork in order to build up a new collection of useful material of, for example, Andreolepis and Lophosteus from Gotland and Estonia respectively, which will ultimately provide new important data on morphology and histology, and improve our understanding on the acquisition of the gnathostome body plan.

Another research focus of this research group is to study how and why the skeleton-bearing vertebrates expanded from a very local and generally low-diversity faunal component during the Ordovician to a more globally distributed and diverse group by the Silurian and early Devonian. Studying the timing of the dispersal, the environmental associations of the vertebrates, and their earliest diversity and biogeography patterns is exploring the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that drove vertebrate evolution during the period when all major components of vertebrate anatomy and ecology seem to have been put into place. Almost every aspect of vertebrate structure and function can be traced back to at least the Silurian and a better understanding of the patterns of early vertebrate evolution during this period is thus essential.

Other research areas concerns the origin and early evolution of ray-finned fishes and tetrapods. Working on material of the Devonian tetrapod Ichthyostega from East Greenland and associated vertebrate faunas, have aimed to establish the regions true significance in tetrapod evolution. In order to investigate the means by how vertebrates made it onto land, focus has also been set on environmental constraints, geographical conditions and faunal dynamics. This has resulted in overall comparisons of Late Devonian faunas yielding tetrapods and numerous field trips to East Greenland.