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Klingenberg lab

Research projects

The lab started with a series of research projects using Drosophila wings and mammal skulls and mandibles (mice, dogs) as model systems. Morphometric methods have been at the core of almost all the research in the group. The lab has since then diversified in the topics it covers and the range of organisms used as study systems, including a range of animal taxa and incerasingly plants as well.

The main goal of the lab is to understand the evolurtion of morphological structures and its genetic and developmental basis.

The strategy is to use morphometric methods to quantify variation at various levels in differernt investigative contexts, including observational, experimental and comparative approaches. Those approaches each have their own protocols and study designs that can be combined with morphometric methods to extract a maximum of information and make inferences about the biolgical processes underlying the obeservable variation.

The members of the lab not only apply the methods of geometric morphometrics in their studies, but we are also engaged in developing new methods. To make newly developed morphometric methods widely available, the MorphoJ software implements these methods in a user-friendly package that is available for free.

Allometry, the size-related variation of morphological traits, has long been a focus of interest. It is applicable in both traditional and geometric morphometric frameworks.

Studies of the left-right asymmetry of shape have been an area of particular interest for some time. The goal was to adapt the methods of geometric morphometrics to the statistical designs traditionally used to study asymmetry of linear measurements. Because geometric morphometrics requires a fully multivariate approach, some new aspects such as the comparison of the covariance structure for asymmetry and individual variation have emerged as promising areas for study.

Covariation of left-right asymmetry among traits can be used as a tool to infer the developmental origin of the covariation between traits. We have developed methodology to examine the patterns of developmental integration and modularity.

Another area of interest is the link between morphometrics and phylogeny. We have long been working on new methods and applications in this area, e.g. combining geometric morphometrics with phylogenetic comparative methods. It is also important to see the limitations of what is possible with morphometric data, something that has been problematic in the context of phylogenetic studies; we have conducted simulation studies to explore those limits.

Finally, some time it is worthwhile to rethink the fundamental concepts that underlie a field of study. In geometric morphometrics, this includes especially shape spaces and shape distances. Rethinking the fundamentals can sometimes provide surprising insights that can inform current debates.