I am investigating the evolution of development in deep time. I am mainly working with ingroups of Euarthropoda, i.e., crustaceans, insects, myriapods, spiders and alike, as well as extinct relatives. Yet, I have also worked on other groups, e.g. ,early non-sclerotised arthropods or cycloneuralian worms.
My approach is based on comparisons of ontogenetic sequences of modern species with those of their extinct relatives, the latter based on exceptionally preserved fossils. I am especially interested in evolutionary shifts in developmental timing, also called heterochrony, and the evolution of novelties in early post-embryonic stages, i.e., the evolution of larvae. Recently I am focussing on the question how the combination of these two aspects can lead to the phenomenon that we call metamorphosis.
My current project, kindly funded by the DFG, centers on malacostracans, the “higher crustaceans”, especially on the diverse forms of decapods. Among decapods many groups have evolved bizarre and highly specialised larval forms, which are large enough to also find them in the fossil record.
For a better access to details of modern and fossil forms I am also interested in optimising imaging methods in 2D and 3D. For reconstructing the morphology and functional aspects of extinct organisms I am additionally using computer-based 3D modeling.