SEA TALE: SEcondary Adaptations of Tetrapods to Aquatic LifE

Ever since they first made the transition to life on land around 350 million years ago, a wide range of different lineages of tetrapods have reinvaded aquatic ecosystems. The constraints that arose from living in water rather than air have forced the evolution of very similar morphologies within these groups, making them some of the best examples of evolutionary convergence. Surprisingly, the ecological convergences and the macroevolutionary pathways behind these are poorly understood and lack a thorough, quantitative framework.

This project focuses on three diverse fossil and Recent groups – ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, and toothed cetaceans – which all converged to a raptorial, pelagic lifestyle with tail propelled locomotion. A large library of 2D and 3D ecomorphological data is gathered, including craniodental and appendicular characters relevant to feeding ecology and hunting style. These are subjected to various morphometric and cluster analyses and integrated with phylogenetic data to reveal unambiguous convergences and parallel evolutionary trajectories among these highly successful marine tetrapod clades. This project aims at revealing the modalities of ecological niche colonization and the shape and evolution of the adaptive landscape of tail-propelled raptorial tetrapods, through phylogeny, time, and biotic crises, up to the present day.

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Rebecca Bennion surface scanning
Internal member(s)
Olivier Lambert
Other member(s)
Rebecca Bennion (ULiège/RBINS)
Jamie MacLaren (ULiège)
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