My research investigates deep time problems in reptile evolution by combining data from living and extinct species, as well as morphological and molecular data. Some of the major questions I addressed include:
- How can we integrate data from the fossil record and molecular biology towards a more comprehensive understanding of the tree of life and its major evolutionary transitions?
I have been developing and implementing recent advances in evolutionary biology towards understanding the origin of lizards and snakes; the time of origin of all major reptile lineages; bridging the gap between morphological and molecular hypothesis of squamate evolution; reconstructing rates of morphological and molecular evolution in deep time to establish the timing of phenotypic innovations and their association with periods of adaptive radiations in reptiles.
- How can we improve the analysis of morphological data in phylogenetics, from data collection to analytical inference?
I have been providing new guidelines towards the impact of logical biases in morphological dataset construction and analysis; assessing the performance of morphological data analysis using various software and algorithms; testing substitution, tree and clock models and their impact on macroevolutionary parameter estimation using relaxed molecular/morphological clocks.
- What are the deep time origins of the major groups of lizards and snakes?
Despite their extreme abundance among extant forms, we currently know very little of how squamates (lizards and snakes) transitioned from a peripheric reptile lineage around 250 million years ago to become the most diverse group of terrestrial vertebrates in the planet today with >11,000 species. I have worked in continue to develop projects on the taxonomy, biogeography, functional morphology, phylogenetics, and macroevolution of living and fossil squamates, to understand the processes responsible for the construction of modern squamate biodiversity and how squamates managed to survive across several climate crises during their evolutionary history.