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

Martin Meyerson Assistant Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies

Dept. of Earth and Environmental Science (primary)
Dept. of Biology

of Pennsylvania   

TED Senior Fellow

Leidy Labs 215C
CV  Google Citations Wikipedia

Short Bio: 
Lauren Sallan is a ‘next generation’ paleobiologist and ichthyologist applying cutting-edge developments in ‘Big Data’ analytics to reveal how evolution happens at the largest scales (macroevolution). Lauren uses the vast fossil and living record of fishes as a database to determine why some species persist and diversify while others die off, how novel features evolve, and how ecological conflicts and environmental shocks drive evolution at immense time scales. Lauren’s research has been published in high-profile venues such as Science, PNAS, and Current Biology, and been featured by the National Science Foundation, The New York Times, the New Scientist, textbooks and popular works.

Lauren earned a PhD in Integrative Biology from the University of Chicago in 2012, and was subsequently a Michigan Fellow. She is currently the Martin Meyerson Assistant Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Lauren received the Stensio Award for top early career paleoichthyologist in 2015, and the University of Chicago MBSAA Distinguished Service Award for Early Achievement in 2018. In 2019, Lauren received an NSF CAREER award and became a TED Senior Fellow. Her TED Talks have received more than 3 million views.  

Research Summary
Sallan lab uses use 'Big Data' approaches, evolutionary trees, morphological, biomechanical and developmental details to determine how global events, environmental change and ecological interactions shaped long-term change (macroevolution) and established modern biodiversity. 

Our analyses use deep-time databases for early vertebrates (half of vertebrate history), fishes (half of vertebrate diversity), marine ecosystems and mass extinctions.

Watch the TED Talk on Winning through Mass Extinction!

Watch the TED Talk on Paleontology and the Last 4 Billion Years of Life!

Watch the TED-Ed Lesson on Why Fishes Are Fish-Shaped!

Listen to a FutureProof interview about the fossil record

Listen to a FutureProof interview
 about research in mass extinction.

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

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)