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overview There are three primary questions around which I build my research program: What is the tree of life? How do animals work? How is structural and functional diversity generated and maintained? In order to play a part in these fields of inquiry, the central goals of much of the research in my laboratory are (1) to resolve the phylogenetic relationships of major coral reef fish groups, (2) to investigate basic biomechanics and functional morphology in organisms, and (3) to integrate phylogeny with biomechanics to understand the evolution of function in diverse groups of organisms. This research focuses primarily on phylogenetic systematics and the study of function in an attempt to generate an integrative approach to evolution. We try to use a range of techniques and approaches to these questions, from the resolution of phylogenetic relationships among fishes using molecular phylogenetics, to computer modeling and detailed biomechanics of muscle-tendon-bone systems (e.g. feeding mechanics) in fishes, to field studies of ecological traits of animals (habitat, feeding biology), to the internal function of small animals using a novel method in high-energy physics called synchrotron imaging. Ideas and techniques are employed from the fields of comparative and functional morphology, phylogenetic systematics, mechanical engineering, muscle physiology, morphometrics, and field ecology. By integrating data from different aspects of the biology of a group of organisms, I hope to reveal a broader picture of the complex evolutionary history of a diverse taxonomic group or an interesting functional system than could be generated from any single discipline alone. Students are welcome in the laboratory, and have worked on a much wider range of questions and organisms (fossils, birds, insects, lizards, snakes, and more!). Most students working in the lab have a general interest in evolution, biomechanics, phylogenetics, fishes, coral reefs, and/or field work. Check out the pages on my Field Museum web site to see more detail on the projects going on in the Westneat Lab!
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  • Anthozoa