We seek to understand how animals evolved and shaped the biosphere and geosphere. We study the anatomy and genetic structure of fossils to understand the evolution of organisms.
Members of Jakob Vinther’s research group study a broad range of subjects.
One focus of our research is Ediacaran-Cambrian radiation of animals. We want to understand the evolution of key innovations in the sea and on land. We make use of new fossil evidence and phylogenetic and molecular clock evidence. We use this to help us understand organismal evolution and interplay.
We also study the processes of fossilization and the preservation of soft tissues. Understanding these processes helps us to accurately interpret fossils. It helps us to understand what was never present and what may have decayed away.
We study the preservation of colour patterns in the fossil record. We look at everything from Feathered dinosaurs to Cambrian trilobites. We want to see how visual predation and communication has shaped colour patterns, signaling and camouflage strategies through to today.
Work in the group generally aligns with one of these themes:
Understanding the big transitions in metazoan evolution. We use molecular methods in conjunction with anatomy, development and, most importantly, fossils.
Discovering pathways to exceptional fossil preservation. We study fossils using novel imaging techniques and chemical analyses. We also look at experimental decay and maturation in the lab.
Evolution of colour and vision
Our team is leading the field of palaeocolour. We study the evolution of feathers in dinosaurs. We look at how they used colours for camouflage and display. We are also investigating more recent birds and mammals. With members of the Bristol Camo and Vision lab, we are testing the function of fossil colour patterns and the evolution of vision.
Evolution of colour and vision
Working with Ilse Daly (Bristol) and Innes Cuthill (Bristol). We look at how novel strategies and colour patterns have evolved over time. We investigate how these reflect changes in visual systems and the predator-prey landscape. The fossils we work on range from the Cambrian to the Oligocene.
Our research group leads the field of palaeocolour and reconstructing colouration of dinosaurs. We have been reconstructing the colours of 6 non avian dinosaurs, including: the striped and banditmasked Sinosauropteryx, and the iridescent Microraptor
We have also inferred habitats and predator prey landscapes. We achieved this by finding countershading in: Sinosauropteryx, Psittacosaurus and Borealopelta
We research the transformation of organic material over geologic timescales. We use chemical analsysis of fossils and conduct experimental decay and maturation experiments. This work is in collaboration with:
- Sarah Gabbott (Leicester)
- Roger Summons (MIT)
- Caleb Brown (Royal Tyrrell Museum)
Exceptional fossils from Chengjiang
This work is in collaboration with Yunnan University (Cong Peiyun, Ma Xiaoya and Hou Xianguang). We are exploring and describing several new organisms from across the tree of life of animals.