Synthesizing phylogenetic, eco-morphological and fossil data to predict evolutionary rates among flamingos (Phoenicopteridae) (Visiting Scholar)
During my tenure as a NESCent graduate fellow, I propose to investigate the timescale of flamingo specialization by synthesizing previously existing molecular phylogenetic, eco-morphological, fossil and paleo-ecological data. I will assess the sensitivity of divergence dating analyses to various combinations of fossil calibrations as an indicator of mutational saturation and outline a fossil calibration for Mirandornithes (flamingos+grebes) which follows the criteria for ideal calibrations put forth by Parham et al. (2012). I will integrate the ages I recover for crown flamingos with cranial and mandibular morphological data to establish diversity and rates of specialization within the subclades of flamingos, and I will correlate these evolutionary milestones with paleo-ecological data. Finally, I will explore how this study can inform the mode and tempo of evolution throughout the tree of life. At the completion of my tenure, I will have established flamingos as a case-study for understanding how quickly a lineage of birds can adapt over a short span of time (≤ 30 Ma).