My research at the MfN focuses on the question of how we can get more accurate phylogenies for fossil taxa.
Evolutionary trees (phylogenies) reveal patterns of evolution and biodiversity through time. For modern animals, DNA is used to make trees, with results quite stable and accurate. For fossils, DNA is lost, so morphology is used. For extant groups, DNA and morphology often conflict often due to convergent evolution masking phylogenetic signal from morphology. My aim is to invesigate how to use morphological data better to infer phylogenies, and thereby get more accurate phylogenies for fossil taxa.
My work focuses on Archosauria, including crocodiles and birds, and bracketing the extinct dinosaurs and pterosaurs. This is an excellent study group because it is very diverse, both morphologically in taxonomically.
Methods and approaches
The project combines traditional anatomy with modern approaches such as Bayesian phylogenetics and 3D scan data.
Funding and partners
The project is based on a Humboldt Foundation award, and I am hosted by the Müller lab.
Other areas of research
My background is in Triassic fossil archosaur palaeontology, both systematics and macroevolution, and I have published extensively in this area. I also have wider academic interests in linguistic and cultural phylogenetics, and in sustainable development.Markus Brinkmann
Please visit my personal website for further information, and links to all my publications.
Foth C, Ezcurra MD, Sookias RB, Brusatte SL, Butler RJ. 2016. Unappreciated diversification of stem archosaurs during the Middle Triassic predated the dominance of dinosaurs. BMC Evolutionary Biology 16:188.
Sobral G, Sookias RB, Bhullar B-AS, Smith R, Butler RJ, Müller J. 2016. New information on the braincase and inner ear of Euparkeria capensis Broom: implications for diapsid and archosaur evolution. Royal Society Open Science 3:160072.
Sookias RB. 2016. The relationships of the Euparkeriidae and the rise of Archosauria. Royal Society Open Science 3:150674.
Sookias RB, Budd GE, Kear BP. 2013. Mesozoic fossil sustainability: synoptic case studies of resource management. GFF 135:131-143.
Sookias RB, Benson RBJ, Butler RJ. 2012. Biology, not environment, drives major patterns in maximum tetrapod body size through time. Biology Letters 8:674-677. Sookias RB, Butler RJ, Benson RBJ. 2012 Rise of dinosaurs reveals major body size transitions are driven by passive processes of trait evolution. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 279:2180-2187.