BIOMAC participants: Daniel Kissling (PI), Renske Onstein (Postdoc)

The field of macroevolution is concerned with the evolutionary history of species and their traits. Methods include the reconstruction of phylogenetic history of a ‘clade’ (a group of related species) using molecular (DNA sequence) data, and ‘dating’ this phylogenetic tree with fossil taxa. We also build functional trait datasets for living and extinct taxa, and use comparative phylogenetic methods to infer diversification rates, ancestral states of traits, and rates of trait evolution.

Key research questions are:

  • Which species are related, and when did their common ancestor evolve?

  • Have diversification rates increased over time, or can we detect signals of diversity dependence? When did ‘key-innovations’ evolve, in response to which selection pressures did these traits evolve, and have they triggered explosive and adaptive species radiations?

Most of this work currently focuses around the

This project especially addresses the evolution of fruit functional traits. These traits are important because they affect seed dispersal of palms by animals such as hornbills, tucans, fruit bats, elephants and tapirs. In the past, extinct ‘megafauna’ may have played an important role in the dispersal and macroevolution of palms.


Tropical rainforest in Australia with palms Measuring megafaunal palm fruits


Please also see our other research themes.