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The Evans Lab

Please find out more about our research, the lab members, and our latest news and activities:

Gecko Skulls


Image Credit: James Turbet

Research area

Research in the Evans lab focuses on the morphological evolution of lissamphibians and non-avian reptiles and its implications for macroevolution, phylogenetic relationships, function, palaeoecology, and biogeography. Techniques and methods used, in conjunction with collaborators, include cladistic analysis, Multibody Dynamics Analysis, Computed Tomography, Scanning Electron Microscopy, classical comparative anatomy and embryology, and tissue histology.

Current research projects

We are currently involved in a number of UK and international research projects including:

  • BBSRC funded research on skull biomechanics in reptiles and mammals in collaboration with Michael Fagan (University of Hull) and Flora Groening (Aberdeen University), with participation from Marc Jones (University of Adelaide) and Mehran Moazen (UCL).
  • Cretaceous fossil reptiles and amphibians from Japan, with Ryoko Matsumoto (Kanegawa Museum).
  • Jurassic to Palaeogene fossil reptiles from China with Liping Dong and Yuan Wang (Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beijing).
  • Jurassic to Cretaceous fossil reptiles and amphibians from the UK, with Roger Benson (Oxford University), Jason Head (Cambridge University), Paul Barrett and Simon Wills (Natural History Museum, London).
  • Functional micro- and nanostructure of mineralised tissues, with Sergio Bertazzo  and Mehran Moazen (UCL).
  • Cretaceous tetrapod fossils from North America, with Joe Sertich (Denver Museum of Natural History), Dave DeMar, Jason Head (Cambridge) and Marc Jones (Adelaide).

Networking activities and society involvement

Researchers in the Evans lab are active members of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology; regularly attend CEE and Grant Museum events; contribute to the NHM-UCL palaeotetrapod journal club; and with the Goswami, Upchurch, and Chatterjee groups, organise the ADaPTIVE (Anatomy, Diversity and Phylogeny: Trends in Vertebrate Evolution) inter-lab meetings at UCL. 

Funding

Currently our main source of funding is the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC). However, we have also received support from the Leverhulme Trust, Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Palaeontological Association (PalAss), Royal Society, British Council, UCL Graduate School, UCL Bogue, University of London Central Research fund, Chinese Academy of Sciences[se11] , and National Geographic.

Outreach

Lab members regularly contribute to outreach and public engagement activities. In Summer 2017, Susan Evans and Mehran Moazen helped to run a Summer workshop on skull development, cranial soft tissues, and craniosynostosis for Year 8 school students in the UCL Grant Museum.

PhD project opportunities in vertebrate palaeontology and morphology

Please contact Professor Susan E Evans or Prof Paul M Barrett.

Location (and postal address):
Evans Lab, Main Anatomy Building (Ground floor: G08 and G10)
Research Department of Cell and Developmental Biology

Division of Biosciences
Gower Street, UCL, University College London, London, UK WCIE 6B


Lab phone number: (0) 20 7679 0160 (x30160)
Lab Head (Prof. Evans) Office: (0) 20 7679 9966(0) 20 7679 9966 (x39966)

Present lab members and affiliates

Professor Susan E. Evans

Susan Evans

s.e.evans@ucl.ac.uk

Susan Evans is Professor of Vertebrate Morphology and Palaeontology.

She has authored, or co-authored, > 200 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. Her research focuses on the evolution of key morphological features in reptiles and amphibians, and the possible consequences of these innovations in terms of the temporal and geographical diversification of the groups in question, e.g. the role of skull kinesis in lizard evolution or of locomotor strategy in frogs.

Her approach is multidisciplinary, combining data from comparative anatomy, functional morphology, palaeontology, phylogenetic analysis, and development to form an integrated perspective on morphological evolution through time.

She is a Fellow of the Linnean Society and a Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society.

Professor Paul Barrett (Honorary Professor, UCL)

Paul Barratt

Paul Barrett is based at the Natural History Museum, London, where he is an RCUK Merit Researcher.

Paul works on dinosaurs and is interested in the taxonomy and systematics of ornithischian and sauropodomorph dinosaurs, various aspects of their palaeobiology (especially feeding and soft tissue biology), and macroevolutionary patterns through time.

Current projects include investigating the links between reptile species-richness through time and changing climates and taxonomic work on dinosaurs from the UK, South Africa and China.

He has published >140 papers on dinosaurs and other reptiles, is the author of several popular books, and makes regular media appearances, as well as being responsible for all dinosaur-related matters at the museum.

Dr. Alana Sharp (Postdoc)

a.sharp@ucl.ac.uk

Alana completed a BSc in Zoology (Monash University, Australia) followed by a PhD in Vertebrate Palaeontology in 2015 (Monash University, Australia) on the cranial morphology and biomechanics of Diprotodon and other related extinct and extant marsupials.

Her research interests include the comparative anatomy and function of vertebrates to understand the relationships between form, function and evolution of the musculoskeletal system in extinct and extant taxa, specifically in cranial biomechanics.

Alana joined UCL in 2017 as a postdoc on the BBSRC project on the role of soft tissues in cranial biomechanics.

Dr. Ryoko Matsumot

Ryoko Matsumoto

r-matsumoto@nh.kanagawa-museum.jp

Ryoko completed her BSc in Agriculture in Tokyo, and her MSc in Vertebrate Palaeontology at Waseda University, Tokyo, before joining the Evans lab to do a PhD in Vertebrate Palaeontology. Ryoko focused on the functional morphology of the skull and vertebral column in choristoderan reptiles.

She is currently Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians in the Department of Zoology, Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History, Japan.

Her current interests include research on the functional anatomy of feeding in the Japanese Giant Salamander, and she continues to collaborate with the Evans lab in projects on living and fossil reptiles and amphibians.

Dr. Liping Dong

Liping Dong

dongliping@ivpp.ac.cn

Liping completed her BSc in Geology at Nanjing University and then joined the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Beijing.

There she completed an MSc project on fossil frogs from the Cretaceous of China (supervisor Prof. Yuan Wang), and went on to do a PhD on lizards from the Palaeogene of China (supervisors Yuan Wang and Susan E. Evans).

As part of her PhD work, Liping joined the Evans lab for a year with funding from the Chinese State Scholarship Fund.

Liping is now a researcher at the IVPP and continues to collaborate with Susan and Yuan on a range of reptile and amphibian projects.

Dr. Marc Jones 

Marc is currently based at the Natural History Museum, London.

Marc Jones

Marc completed his BSc in Palaeobiology at UCL Earth Sciences, and followed this with a PhD on rhynchocephalian skull evolution and biomechanics in the Evans Lab.

He remained in the lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow (BBSRC funded) working on lepidosaur skull mechanics and evolution. Marc's research generally encompasses the macroevolution of amphibians and reptiles but focuses on specific topics such as the fossil record of rhynchocephalian reptiles, in vivo bite force, and skull shape in lizards.

He then moved to Australia a an ARC DECRA Fellow and lecturer at the University of Adelaide.

Napat Ratnarathorn (PhD student)

Napat Ratnarathorn

napat.ratnarathorn.14@ucl.ac.uk

Napat gained his Bachelor degree in Biological Science at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, in 2011.

He is interested in reptiles, especially snakes, and gained experience through training and research fellowships at the snake farm of the Thai Red Cross society. 

His PhD project in the Evans lab (UCL) is focused on the Monocled cobra in Thailand, and has three components: 

  1. Development of the bones and cartilages of the skeleton,
  2. the effects of incubation temperature on developmental morphology, and
  3. the potential influence of regional geography and climate on morphological variation and development in the Monocled cobra.

Napat's research is in collaboration with the molecular laboratory, Department of Biology, Chulalongkorn University, and the snake farm in Bangkok.

Paul Varotsis (PhD student)

Paul Varotsis

paul.varotsis.12@ucl.ac.uk

Paul is a former banker with an interest in palaeontology and evolutionary patterns.

After completing a part-time Geology BSc at Birkbeck College (University of London), Paul has embarked on a part-time PhD.

He is working on a review of the fossil anguimorph history, focusing first on the predatory Jurassic-Cretaceous anguimorph lizard Dorsetisaurus, known from localities in southern England, Portugal, and the USA (supervisors Susan Evans, Paul Barrett, Paul Upchurch [UCL Earth Sciences]). Dorsetisaurus is important as it is often used to anchor the basal node in the anguimorph evolutionary tree.

Terri Cleary (PhD student NHM/UCL NERC DTP)

t.cleary@nhm.ac.uk

Terri Cleary

Terri completed her BSc in Biology at the University of Sheffield, and then an MSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol.

She is currently a PhD student on the London NERC DTP programme, supervised by Paul Barrett, Susan Evans, and Roger Benson (Oxford).

Her project uses a range of techniques to elucidate and correct for biases in the fossil record of the Lepidosauria from the Triassic-Paleogene, and to compare sampling-corrected diversity to major climatic and faunal turnover events.

Carla Bardua (PhD student Goswami Lab: GEE/CDB NERC DTP)

Carla Bardua

carla.bardua.15@ucl.ac.uk

Carla completed her BA in Natural Sciences at Cambridge University and moved to UCL for her PhD.

Her project (supervised by Anjali Goswami and Susan Evans) focuses on morphological evolution and modularity in living and extinct amphibians and early tetrapods.

She is constructing a large 3D surface morphometric dataset to investigate evolutionary rates, morphological disparity, and phenotypic modularity through time.

This morphological data will be analysed to determine how modularity influences patterns and processes of amphibian evolution and how it interacts with extrinsic factors such as large scale biotic events.

This project is part of a collaborative research project within the Goswami lab which will ultimately analyse morphological changes of key structures (skull, limbs and jaw) throughout the whole tetrapod lineage.




November 2017

The Evans lab welcomes a new PhD student from Mexico - Ivan Rodrigo Reyes Perez. Ivan, who has successfully obtained a CONACyT studentship from the Mexican government, will be working with Professor Evans and Dr Yamamoto on eye and skull development.

In January 2018 the lab will be joined by Dr Mateusz Talanda from Warsaw, Poland. A "Mobility Plus" Fellowship sponsored by the Polish government will allow Dr Talanda to work on a joint UCL-Oxford palaeontology project.

June 2017

Susan Evans and Mehran Moazen help to run Summer workshop on skull development, cranial soft tissues, and craniosynostosis for Year 8 school students.

May 2017

Tuatara Day (May 7th) - 150 years today Gunther published his landmark paper showing that Sphenodon, the New Zealand Tuatara, was not a lizard but a surviving member of a completely separate reptilian group, the Rhynchocephalia (see ex-lab member Dr. Marc EH Jones letter to Nature).

March 2017

Susan works with Sally Collins (UCL Museum Learning & Access) and Judith Shapiro (Film maker) to develop an outreach activity on cranial soft tissues for use in schools outreach.

Postdocs Alana Sharp (UCL) and Hugo Dutel (Hull) spent time at Paradise Wildlife Park collecting intraocular pressure data on a range of lizards in relation to our current BBSRC project on the role of soft tissues in skull biomechanics.

February 2017

Susan gives seminar on lepidosaur skull biomechanics at Trinity College, Dublin.

Visit by Ryoko Matsumoto (Kanegawa Museum) to work with Susan on Cretaceous fossils from China.

Postdoc Alana Sharp joins the lab as a replacement for Nick Crumpton who has left to pursue other interests.

January 2017

Visit by Eraqi Khannoon (Biology Department, Taibah University, KSA) to work with Susan on ongoing projects on lizard and snake development.

Visit by Mateusz Talanda (Institute of Paleobiology, Warsaw) to discuss lizard evolution.

Published online: Dong, L, Wang, Y, Evans, SE. A new lizard (Reptilia: Squamata) from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of China, with a taxonomic revision of Yabeinosaurus. Cretaceous Research. DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2016.12.017

December 2016

Susan Evans attends Anatomical Society Meeting (Kings College) with Sergio Bertazzo (UCL, Biophysics & Biomedical Engineering) and Mehran Moazen (UCL Mechanical Engineering), presenting a talk (on osteoderms) and posters on osteoderm structure and function and lizard skull function.

Meanwhile Napat Ratnarathorn (PhD student) is back in Thailand chasing Monocled Cobras in different regions for his project on snake development.

November 2016

Visit by Angela Delgada and Francisco-Poyato-Ariza (Autonoma University, Madrid) to talk about ongoing Las Hoyas Project (Early Cretaceous, Spain)

September 2016

Published online: Ward, Lizzy, Evans SE, Stern CD. A resegmentation-shift model for vertebral patterning. Journal of Anatomy. DOI:10.1111/joa.12540

August 2016

Postdocs Nick Crumpton (UCL) and Hugo Dutel (Hull) spent time at London Zoo collecting intraocular pressure data on a range of lizards in relation to our current BBSRC project on the role of soft tissues in skull biomechanics.

Huge thanks to the veterinary staff at the zoo for their help.

Meanwhile, Susan Evans was on a month-long visit to the IVPP in Beijing, China, courtesy of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, working with Liping Dong and Yuan Wang on Chinese fossil reptiles from a range of localities.

Just published online: Matsumoto, R and Evans SE 2016. The palatal dentition of tetrapods and its functional significance. Journal of Anatomy Doi:10.1111/jao.12536.

June-July 2016

Susan Evans and postdoc Nick Crumpton attended the International Conference on Vertebrate Morphology (ICVM) in Washington and presented a poster on the role of the chondrocranium in the skull of the lizard Tupinambis (in conjunction with Marc Jones [Adelaide], Michael Fagan [Hull] and Flora Groening [Aberdeen]).

June 2016

Susan Evans and postdoc Nick Crumpton ran a Summer workshop for Year 8 (=12 years old) school students in conjunction with Sally Collins (UCL Public and Cultural Engagement) and Dean Veall (Grant Museum of Zoology).

The kids learnt about the relationship between the skull, jaw muscles, and facial soft tissues, with the help of plastic skulls, plasticene, and a small mountain of dough.