George Gaylord Simpson Prize - 2015
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Teresa Feo
Teresa Feo
Alex Dornburg
Alex Dornburg

Teresa Feo

Teresa Feo received the 2015 George Gaylord Simpson Prize for her 2015 publication, "Barb geometry of asymmetrical feathers reveals a transitional morphology in the evolution of avian flight" (Proceedings of the Royal Society Part B 282: 20142864, coauthored with Daniel Field and Richard Prum). Asymmetrical flight feathers are among the most distinctive features of the avian wing. These aerodynamic feathers facilitate flight in modern birds, and the fossil record of asymmetrical flight features extends back over 150 million years. Archaeopteryx and many other feathered dinosaurs exhibit asymmetrical feathers and have long thought to be indistinguishable from those of modern birds. A detailed analysis of flight feather morphology has revealed, for the first time, that the asymmetrical feathers of many dinosaurs, including Archaeopteryx, are more primitive than those of modern birds, suggesting that these animals may have only been capable of weak flying potential.

 

Teresa Feo is a PhD student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University. She studies the development and evolution of morphological diversity in feathers using a combination of theoretical modeling, empirical investigations, and field work. Her recent research has focused on asymmetrical flight feathers in the wings of birds, and sound producing feathers in the tails of hummingbirds. 

 

Alex Dornburg

The number of species found in the Indo-Australian Archipelago (IAA) vastly exceeds the number of species found in any other region of the world's oceans. Although a biodiversity "hotspot", the IAA formed fairly recently, and similar marine biodiversity hotspots have shifted across nearly half the globe over the last 65 million years. If we are to understand the formation and maintenance of global marine biodiversity, then an understanding of how lineages have responded to shifts in biodiversity hotspots represents a necessary historic perspective. However, for many lineages developing this perspective has been challenging due to a lack of fossils that provide the necessary insights into patterns of abundance and diversity. A notable exception to this pattern of limited fossils are squirrelfishes and soldierfishes (Holocentridae). Today the greatest diversity of Holocentrids are found in the IAA, yet these fishes also represent some of the most numerous fossil taxa in deposits of the Eocene West Tethyan biodiversity hotspot. We reconstruct the pattern of holocentrid range evolution using time-calibrated phylogenies that include most living species and several fossil lineages, demonstrating the importance of including fossil species as terminal taxa in ancestral area reconstructions. Holocentrids exhibit increased range fragmentation following the collapse of the West Tethyan hotspot. However, rather than originating within the emerging IAA hotspot, the IAA has acted as a reservoir for holocentrid diversity that originated in adjacent regions over deep evolutionary time scales.