NSF Award from the Division of Environmental Biology
Early Sharks: The basal branching pattern and time-scale of chondrichthyan phylogeny
- Principal Investigator: Michael Coates, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, Committee on Evolutionary Biology, Research Associate (Geology), Field Museum of Natural History
- Start Date: July 15, 2009
- Total Award Amount: $462,558
This project takes a fresh look at the evolutionary origin of cartilaginous fishes: sharks, rays, and the less well-known chimaeras. Sharks and their relatives tend to be presented as primitive and/or supremely adapted predators, although popular attention has shifted more recently towards their ecological vulnerability and uniqueness as an apparent reservoir of ancient genetic heritage. This project addresses the question of what, if anything, is primitive about living shark-like fishes, and aims to place today’s molecular genetic discoveries and conservation targets within a clear and precise evolutionary context. Fossils are central to this research. While fossils are rare, remarkable examples are known. This research will employ the latest analytical methods and imaging techniques to investigate these early fishes to fill an outstanding gap in knowledge of early vertebrate diversity.
This research will contribute directly to the ongoing effort to provide a robust foundation of the tree of vertebrate life. The project will deliver training and employment opportunities for young scientists at undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels, with high potential for further interdisciplinary research. Sharks grab attention, and thereby provide a superb vehicle for promoting the public understanding of science through outreach programs, museum talks and displays, school visits, and broadcast media. Finally, this project will build upon and extend networks of inter-institutional research and education at national and international levels.
This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, NSF Award number: 0917922
Michael Coates, PhD,
Associate Professor, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, Committee on Evolutionary Biology, Research Associate (Geology), Field Museum of Natural History