How does morphology evolve, and how did some groups such as birds become so successful, when their closest relatives, crocodiles, did not?

The first aim of this project is to produce a complete phylogenetic tree of tetrapods (30,000 living species; 10,000 extinct species) and use this to explore a core question in macro- evolution: how has the balance between innovation and opportunity affected the evolution of life?

The second aim is to use the distribution of characters across the tree to construct a model for morphological evolution.

We plan to produce three outputs:

  1. the complete evolutionary tree of tetrapods;
  2. a table of morphological characters across all tetrapod groups; and
  3. a large number of documented case studies of macroevolution among tetrapods (e.g. amphibians, early reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, mammals).

In sum, these will provide the largest-ever geologically dated morphological evolutionary tree and character set, so enabling a thorough exploration of key evolutionary drivers and models across a single important clade.