Graduate Fellow

Synthesizing phylogenetic, eco-morphological and fossil data to predict evolutionary rates among flamingos (Phoenicopteridae)

PI(s): Christopher Torres (University of North Carolina-Wilmington (Wilmington,NC))
Start Date: 1-Sep-2013
End Date: 1-Jun-2014
Keywords: adaptation, ecology, macroevolution, phylogenetics, paleontology

During my tenure as a NESCent graduate fellow, I propose to investigate the
timescale of flamingo specialization by synthesizing previously existing molecular phylogenetic,
eco-morphological, fossil and paleo-ecological data. I will assess the sensitivity of divergence
dating analyses to various combinations of fossil calibrations as an indicator of mutational
saturation and outline a fossil calibration for Mirandornithes (flamingos+grebes) which follows
the criteria for ideal calibrations put forth by Parham et al. (2012). I will integrate the ages I
recover for crown flamingos with cranial and mandibular morphological data to establish
diversity and rates of specialization within the subclades of flamingos, and I will correlate these
evolutionary milestones with paleo-ecological data. Finally, I will explore how this study can
inform the mode and tempo of evolution throughout the tree of life. At the completion of my
tenure, I will have established flamingos as a case-study for understanding how quickly a lineage
of birds can adapt over a short span of time (≤ 30 Ma).