Elasmobranch morphometry and comparative anatomy
Sharks and rays quite literally come in all shapes and sizes, in other words they are extremely morphologically diverse. But why? We investigate shape and growth patterns across species and ontogenies to unravel how evolution has 'moulded' these charismatic animals. We consider both overall body-form, and specific morphological structures, particularly those that are unique to a species, genus, or other elasmobranch clade.
Chondrichthyan macroevolution and phylogenetics
Sharks, rays and chimaera have an evolutionary history that extends at least 420 million years into the past. Over this time, contrary to popular belief, they have changed and diversified significantly. We combine measurements from living and fossil species with genetic and genomic data to unravel portions of this evolutionary history, and the significance it may have for a broader understanding of evolutionary theory. Of particular interest are relationships between trait values and ecological factors, which may reveal the selective drivers underpinning morphological and behavioural evolution.
Community perspectives on elasmobranch ecology and biology
Community engagement is central to the fields of ecology and conservation. We investigate the relationships between scientists, fishers, ecotourism agencies, regulatory bodies and the general public to determine the most inclusive and effective methods to deliver conservation action. Particular focuses include the use of citizen science as a data collection method for biologists, and the role of ecotourism in shark conservation.
Elasmobranch behaviour, movement, and kinematics
Behaviour is of vital importance to both ecology and evolution: it determines the outcomes of interactions with conspecifics and other species, and importantly it is both a consequence and an agent of natural selection. We quantitatively investigate behaviour, particularly locomotion and reproductive behaviours, at a range of temporal scales, and suggest how these behaviours may play roles in the ecological and evolutionary futures of vulnerable elasmobranch populations.
Elasmobranch population genetics
Sharks are the most vulnerable group of vertebrates to extinction, according to recent IUCN numbers. Key to assessing the status of vulnerable populations is an understanding of the levels of genetic variation present in populations, and connectivity between populations. We are investigating the population genetics of understudied shark species, which are otherwise susceptible to declines going unnoticed. This will improve our understanding of which shark populations are particularly at risk of extinction, and thus those which are most in need of protection.
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