Meet your colleagues

The faculty of Sciences counts 101 research groups, in all their diversity. To let them know you better, they give a shot presentation.


Meet your colleagues - D. Adriaens

Evolutionary morphology of vertebrates ... about vampires and dragons

As Darwin was fascinated about natural variation in what animals look like, it opened his view on how evolution allowed the origin of new species. He discovered the general process of evolution, considering that organisms had more chance to survive if they were better adapted to their environment. The discipline of evolutionary morphology targets just that: to what degree can evolutionary changes in a phenotype (the way an organism is constructed) be considered as adaptations to deal with a changing environment, and how did they arise starting from an ancestral condition? In our research group, we focus on two main systems in evolutionary morphology that involve the major drives in evolutionary changes in animals: the feeding system and the locomotory system. In trying to obtain answers on questions related to adaptive evolution in these systems, we have and are studying some specific representatives of vertebrate lineages within fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Using a multidisciplinary approach, we try to understand (1) the nature of structural modifications that have occurred during evolution, and (2) how they influence the functionality of the organism. Studying this relation between morphological variation and its implication on functional performance can provide insights in how adaptive evolution progressed, thereby increasing the chances of survival of the fitter ones. In this presentation, I will tackle some specific cases that we focus on, such as blood-sucking catfish, seahorses, mouth-brooding cichlids, pelican eels, Darwin’s finches and African molerats.