We infer evolutionary history from fossils and their living relatives. We combine morphological and molecular evidence, to explain the timing and tempo of major evolutionary transitions.
We look at the origin of vertebrates, animals and plants.
We try to better understand major events in evolutionary history. We research the origin of multicellularity in groups such as animals, plants and fungi. We look at the emergence of organismal bodyplans within the kingdoms. We study the development of the major clades such as vertebrate and ecdysozoan animals, and vascular plants.
A lot our work is empirical. We establish the timing and sequence of molecular and anatomical innovations that underpin the assembly of bodyplans. We also have a strong focus on research. We explore ways in which we can use palaeontological data to restore fossils to the Tree of Life. We look at how we can use them to establish accurate evolutionary timescales, using the molecular clock.
Work in the group generally aligns with one of these themes:
Major evolutionary transitions
We aim to explain the evolutionary emergence of key bodyplans. This includes those of animals, bryophytes, tracheophytes, and the seed plants.
Molecular and morphological evidence
Our research integrates evidence from disparate sources. We look at morphological evidence from fossil species and their living relatives. We also consider evidence from comparative developmental genetics.
We continue to explore approaches to understanding the processes of decay and fossilization. We use this to understand the nature of the fossil record and preservation.
Divergence time estimation
We have made key contributions to the development of molecular clock methods. We have shown how fossil evidence can and cannot be used in calibration. We have formulated procedures for deriving fossil and geologically-based calibrations. We explore the efficacy of the latest computational methods for divergence time estimation.
The Proterozoic-Phanerozoic transition and the origin of animal bodyplans
(NERC with Dan Condon, Tim Lenton, Davide Pisani, Graham Shields, Jakob Vinther, and many others)
Phylogenetic methods for integrating fossils and living species in the same evolutionary trees
(with Mark Puttick, Joe O’Reilly, Davide Pisani)
Divergence time estimation
(BBSRC with Ziheng Yang)
The origin and early evolution of land plants
(NERC with Harald Schneider, Dianne Edwards, Paul Kenrick, Davide Pisani, Sylvia Pressel, Charles Wellman, Tom Wiliams, Ziheng Yang)
The origin of vertebrates and their early evolution
(NERC with Joe Keating, Martin Rücklin)
Our key collaborators
- Prof Stefan Bengtson (Swedish Museum of Natural History, Sweden)
- Dr Dan Condon (British Geological Survey, UK)
- Prof Dianne Edwards FRS (Cardiff University, UK)
- Dr Joseph Keating (University of Manchester, UK)
- Dr Paul Kenrick (Natural History Museum, UK)
- Prof Tim Lenton (Exeter University, UK)
- Prof Davide Pisani (University of Bristol, UK)
- Dr Silvia Pressel (Natural History Museum, UK)
- Dr Mark Puttick (University of Bath, UK)
- Prof Emily Rayfield (University of Bristol, UK)
- Dr Martin Rücklin (Naturalis, The Netherlands)
- Prof Harald Schneider (Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanic Garden, China)
- Prof Graham Shields (University College London, UK)
- Prof Ziheng Yang FRS (University College London, UK)
- Dr Zongjun Yin (Nanjing Institute of Geology, Palaeontology, and Stratigraphy, China)
Find out more about the work and publications of the Donoghue Lab on our website.
Contact Donoghue Lab
Our researchers are funded by: