Shape of Life: reading the evolutionary history of animals by measuring them

The field of morphometrics, which is the quantitative study of size and shape, is used across fields of biology to understand the processes involved in generating diverse forms of biological organisms. This talk will discuss what we can learn about evolution and development from comparing the shape of structures like bones, exoskeletons, and leaves.

This seminar is part of the workshop Leveraging morphological and genomic data to elucidate evolutionary patterns. Emma's seminar is open to the general public with interest in evolutionary biology. Workshop participants are encouraged to attend both Emma and Mario's seminars before the practical sessions. 

About Emma

Dr Emma Sherratt leads the Quantitative Morphology Group at University of Adelaide, which is dedicated to researching the ecological and developmental factors responsible for morphological variation. Research in this group spans the tree of life, and current students are working with snakes, rabbits, beetles, and birds to answer questions about ecological transitions, functional adaptation, and how ontogenetic variation contributes to macroevolutionary patterns. We use various morphometric methods (linear, landmarks, outlines) to capture shape variation, depending on the organism and question involved.

Representative publications:

  • Martin EM, Young JW, Fellmann CD, Kraatz B, Sherratt E (2022) Anatomical correlates of cursoriality are compromised by body size and propensity to burrow in a group of small mammals (Lagomorpha). Evolutionary Biology, 49, 464-481.
  • Sherratt E, Vidal-García M, Anstis M, Keogh JS (2017) Adult frogs and tadpoles have different macroevolutionary patterns across the Australian continent. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 1, 1385-1391.
  • Kraatz BP, Sherratt E (2016) Evolutionary morphology of the rabbit skull. PeerJ, 4, e2453
  • Sherratt E, Sanders KL, Watson A, Hutchinson MN, Lee MSY, Palci A (2019) Heterochronic shifts mediate ecomorphological convergence in skull shape of microcephalic sea snakes. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 59, 616–62