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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research project: An individual-based perspective on macroevolution

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How variation among individuals generates variation among species.

Biologists often attempt to understand the evolution of traits like height and weight on their own. It is not individual traits that survive, reproduce and die though, but whole individuals. If the individuals of a species are successful, then the species will be too. The connection highlights the link between the traits that define species, evolution within species and the formation of new species is a key part of evolutionary biology, but one for which lots of data are rare. To understand it, we need to study competition among species in different environments. We also need to sample individuals in populations over and over again to see how these pressures change over time.
Only the fossil record can give direct evidence of historical groups of species and how they have changed over vast periods of time. The exceptional preservation of fossilised planktonic foraminifera - single-celled, sexual organisms living in all of the world's oceans - means it is possible to collect thousands of individuals per species and home in on abrupt or gradual environmental change, seeing which groups succeed and, importantly, which fail.

Funding: NERC Advanced Fellowship
Funding duration: Oct 2012 – Oct 2017

Related research groups

Environmental Biosciences
Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate
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