We are interested in the multiscale (including deeptime) dynamics of the interactions between environmental and developmental drivers of the morphological evolution of organisms.
How for instance changes in the climate and seawater chemistry may influence (or may be influenced by) the evolution of organisms and ecosystems?
How may developmental (hence also mechanical) ‘constraints’ affect the likelihood of a given organ to evolve in particular directions?
In order to answer these questions and others, we study in particular an extinct group of jawless vertebrates, the conodonts, for conodonts have an amazing fossil record: their feeding elements (or ‘teeth’) are abundant microfossils in most marine sedimentary rocks dating back from the Late Cambrian (ca. 500Ma) to the Late Triassic (ca. 200Ma); their fossil record has possibly the best spatio-temporal resolution within that 300Myr long temporal window, which allows to track their response to relatively fast climate perturbations; these elements are considered one of the best material for geochemical reconstructions of paleoenvironments; they survived several mass extinctions; and they display an extraordinary diversity of beautiful morphologies 😉
We also run experiments on extant organisms to better interpret the fossil record: we are working for instance on catsharks (Scyliorhinus canicula) in collaboration with Mélanie Debiais-Thibaud, to explore the drivers of tooth morphological variation in elasmobranchs; we are working on rabbits to get insights on the development and evolution of ever-growing teeth; and we are characterizing patterns of molar morphological variation in populations of mice to better understand the genetic basis of intraspecific variation.
We are also interested in the invertebrate-vertebrate transition and how vertebrate placodes and vertebrate odontodes appeared. For example, we have been working recently on the EDA (Ectodysplasin) signaling pathway and its potential function in amphioxus, which is presumably a good proxy for the vertebrate ancestor.