UCL Earth Sciences


Miranta Kouvari

“Studying macroevolutionary patterns of fossil mammals as well as the functional morphology of their skeletons”

PhD project title:

Climatic constraints on the distribution of terrestrial Neogene eutherian mammal diversity.

miranta kouvari
Project description:

My PhD focuses on understanding what drove the eutherian diversity fluctuations during the Neogene. The Neogene (~23-2.6 Ma) was a period of climatic changes and the Earth became an ice-house world with the forming of permanent ice-sheets in both the poles. Around this period, the modern-day Latitudinal Biodiversity Gradient (LBG) first appeared. The LBG is one of the most global and well-established patterns, however we know little about what causes it. Understanding this is essential in order to predict how organisms will react to future climatic changes.
In my PhD I investigate whether the modern-day LBG a consistent pattern during the last 23Ma, test whether climate a primary driver of the mammalian diversity fluctuations through time and space and if the timing of diversity fluctuations and faunal turnovers globally synchronous. The Neogene was also a period of important mammalian events like the Great American Biotic Interchange, so I aim to investigate these individual events in detail.
For this I am building a near-comprehensive occurrence dataset into the Paleobiology Database (paleobiodb.org). I will then reconstruct palaeodiversity curves taking into account fossil biases. I also plan to use Ecological Niche Modelling to study the evolution of habitat suitability of the mammalian groups through time and space.
My research interests also include studying macroevolutionary patterns involving insular endemism as well as functional morphology with projects focusing on carnivoran brain evolution and shrew mandible evolution through time.