Our research focuses on an often underestimated life phase: The larval phase. Especially some groups of arthropodans possess highly differentiated larval stages, for example, many decapodan crustaceans or insects, but also several others. These larvae play a crucial role in ecosystems, not least due to the giant biomass they represent.
We study the morphological diversity of these larval stages with state-of-the-art imaging methods (super-macro photography, microscopy, µCT scanning) in combination with many different contrasting methods (cross-polarisation, fluorescence, phase contrast, dark field) and software-based optimisation (image fusion, panorama stitching, HDR, virtual surface reconstruction). The investigated morphologies will be set into an evolutionary phylogenetic context, and the extent of variation will be quantitatively measured.
In addition to extant animals, we also include exceptionally preserved fossil larvae into our studies. In this way, we are able to detect changes in morphology of these developmental stages on a geological scale.
Ultimately, this approach allows us to quantitatively detect changes of morphological diversity of ecologically important groups over time. Therefore, this approach provides important data for other, more ecologically oriented fields, such as biodiversity research and conservation biology.
For further information: https://www.palaeo-evo-devo.info/