UCL Division of Biosciences



UCL Centre for Life’s Origins and Evolution (CLOE)
CLOE is organised around three grand themes: the origins of life and of major innovations; the pattern of evolution at all time scales and across the tree of life; and the processes that underpin the emergence of biological complexity and diversity. 


Harnessing the diverse skill sets and interests of UCL evolutionary biologists, CLOE researchers integrate a great diversity of technological approaches including molecular evolution, genomics and computational biology, advanced microscopy, palaeontology, molecular biology, embryology and genome manipulation. Our diverse technical and intellectual approaches cut across our three themes to bring an integrated understanding of evolution.

Origins: Complex life emerged through a series of major innovations beginning with the origin of life itself, including key evolutionary novelties such as the genetic code, prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, photosynthesis, endomembrane systems, sex, multicellularity, and the origins of animals and plants, right through to human origins and the beginnings of cultural evolution.

Pattern: Reconstructing evolutionary patterns with data from living and extinct (fossil) organisms involves integrating a breadth of data (molecular, developmental, anatomical, palaeontological) to establish phylogenetic relationships among taxa, to identify the timing and tempo of speciation events, to detect evolutionary trends in complexity and diversity, and to understand the causes and consequences of major events, such as mass extinctions.

Process: New technology-driven possibilities to probe the mechanisms underlying evolutionary changes and to compare these across diverse organisms give unprecedented opportunities to understand the processes underlying biological evolution and to bridge traditionally disparate fields of biology. These range from detecting genotype-phenotype associations, to isolating the drivers of variation, the raw material of evolution, to identifying the genetic and developmental basis of innovation or stagnation (constraint).