Skip to content Skip to navigation

PhD: The evolution of symmetry in echinoderms

Project Title

The evolution of symmetry in echinoderms


The Natural History Museum

Supervisors and Institutions

Dr Imran Rahman (Natural History Museum), Dr Jeffrey Thompson (University of Southampton), Dr Tim Ewin (Natural History Museum), Dr Frankie Dunn (Oxford University Museum of Natural History), Dr Neil Gostling (University of Southampton)

Funding Status

Funding is in competition with other projects and students

Project Description

Symmetry is a fundamental property of the animal body plans that emerged over half a billion years ago, during the Ediacaran–Cambrian. While a few animal groups display radial symmetry or are asymmetrical, the vast majority are bilaterally symmetrical. However, determining why different types of symmetry evolved is challenging, in part because most phyla are characterized by only a single form. Echinoderms (starfish, sea urchins and their allies) are an exception; all modern species exhibit pentaradial (five-fold) symmetry, but the phylum also possesses an extensive fossil record that includes bilateral, asymmetrical and radial forms [1,2]. The aim of the proposed research is to investigate the evolution of symmetry in echinoderms as an exemplar for understanding the evolutionary significance of symmetry in animals more broadly. This will be achieved by studying the form, function and phylogeny of early fossil echinoderms using cutting-edge methods, including X-ray tomography, computational fluid dynamics and Bayesian inference. Furthermore, the ecology and environments inhabited by early echinoderms will be characterized and analyzed quantitatively using phylogenetic comparative methods. The results will transform our understanding of the evolution of symmetry in echinoderms, with broad implications for animal body plan assembly.

Contact Name

Imran Rahman

Contact Email

Link to More Information

Closing Date

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Expiry Date

Tuesday, January 3, 2023
PalAss Go! URL: | Twitter: Share on Twitter | Facebook: Share on Facebook | Google+: Share on Google+