Title: Early innovation in behavior and morphology of Cambrian arthropods.
The earliest phylum-specific fossils in the record are arthropod trace fossils, they thus provide a unique archive of early animal evolution. My project aims to investigate their distribution, mode of formation and evolution in order to construct a picture of the earliest arthropod behavioral and structural evolution from a unique source. Arthropod trace fossils provide the very first evidence of increasing neural complexity and the evolution of complex behavioral patterns and are thus an understudied source of information especially considering the fact that actual body fossils appear much later in the fossil record. Special focus is being given to the most characteristic trace fossils of the genus Cruziana and Rusophycus as they have been robustly associated with arthropod makers and furthermore provide information about the morphology of the producer. My main target is to review all Cambrian arthropod trace fossil reports, examine their variation and change through time. In my investigation of the mode of production of these very first arthropod trace fossils I am conducting actualistic experiments on living arthropod taxa to investigate their relationship with the sediment, their trace-forming behavior and the associated patterns. An integral part of the project will be the formation of relevant hypotheses for trace formation and their testing with trilobite limb models in accordance with the latest published anatomical data.
I am interested in the evolution of functional morphology and the associated anatomical changes in organisms as well as understanding the developmental basis of this change. This leads to a better understanding of the formation and evolution of complex body plans from a palaeontological point of view.