A 350-million-year-old marine 
ecosystem in Scotland 
(Painting by Robert Nicholls)

Vertebrates before and after the end-Devonian extinction (from Sallan and Galimberti, Science, 2015)

348 million year old fish Aetheretmon, showing the ancestral double tail alongside a modern pufferfish with (lower) caudal fin alone.
(Painting by John Megahan)


Lauren Sallan, PhD

Assistant Professor
Earth and Environmental Science
University of 

2017 TED Fellow


CV  Google Citations

Research Summary
We use 'Big Data' approaches, evolutionary trees and detailed study of fossils to determine how global events, environmental change and ecological interactions shaped long-term change (macroevolution) and established modern biodiversity.

Deep-time databases for early vertebrates (half of vertebrate history), ray-finned fishes (half of vertebrate diversity), marine ecosystems and mass extinctions provide our test cases.

Research Interests
Macroevolution, Macroecology,
Early Vertebrates, Ichthyology 
Mass Extinction, Phylogenetics
Biomechanics, Evo-Devo

Listen to a Palaeocast interview about our research on early vertebrate macroevolution and paleobiology

March 17, 2017: Erynn Johnson has been awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for her awesome work on the role of crushing predation in macroevolution. Congratulations, Erynn!

February 20, 2017: Our paper on the identity of the 'Tully Monster' is out in Palaeontology. It is not a fish. Press coverage in the International Business Times, CBS NewsHaaretz, ScienceDailyDailyMailScience Friday (radio), SF Gate (video) , Science News, and other outlets

February 2, 2017: Our research on fossil fishes is featured in The Daily Pennsylvanian

January 10, 2017: Lauren has been selected as a 2017 TED Fellow!  Read the announcement in Penn News and Fast Company

December 5, 2016: Our paper on the dual origin of vertebrate tails is out in Current Biology. Press Coverage in the DailyMailSeeker (Discovery News)The Scientist, ScienceDaily and Deutschlandfunk.

A 310-million-year-old freshwater ecosystem in Illinois
(Painting by John Megahan)

A phylogeny of living ray-finned fishes
(From Sallan, Biological Reviews, 2014)

A later shell-crushing ray-fin, 
Styracopterus, 340 million years ago
(Painting by John Megahan)