2nd Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology in Montpellier 2018

The conference Evolution is a joint congress that takes place every six years. It brings together four of the world’s largest academic societies in the field of evolutionary biology: the European Society for Evolutionary Biology, the American Society of Naturalists, the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Society of Systematic Biologists. With almost 3000 attendees and about 60 countries represented the second joint congress in Montpellier was the largest and most international Evolutionary Biology meeting ever organized so far. Indeed, it was a highly interesting meeting with inspiring talks and posters! If you’re interested, you can have a look at the programme [here].


Together with my colleagues, I was involved in the organization of the symposium S25 – The macroevolutionary dynamics of form-function relationships. We were successful to compile a list of exceptional researchers who presented their latest results on diverse aspects of macroevolution. We were pleased that Harvard University vertebrate paleontologist Stephanie Pierce accepted our invitation to open our symposium with a plenary talk. She exclusively presented the recently published results of her project on the axial skeleton in fossil and living mammals and the transition from an unregionalized to a regionalized presacral vertebral column. See references below and you can listen to the recorded talks [here]!

Organizers: Christine Böhmer, Alexandra Houssaye, Brandon Kilbourne, Martha Muñoz, Josef Uyeda
Abstract: Macroevolutionary studies applied to comparative and paleontological datasets have revealed much about the dynamics of adaptation across deep time. While such studies commonly examine the evolution of morphology, an important intermediary connecting adaptive landscapes to phenotypic traits is organismal performance. Performance generally more closely relates to organismal fitness and may exhibit very different dynamics than the morphological traits underlying them. Thus, understanding the biomechanics and performance of biological systems can provide key insights into the connections between macroevolutionary models and adaptive landscapes and give greater insights into the functional and ecological implications of major evolutionary transitions. Recent advances in the collection and availability of performance data from comparative and paleontological datasets combined with novel macroevolutionary and biomechanical models are allowing researchers to identify predictable patterns of evolution in response to phylogenetically replicated ecological shifts. By focusing on the relationships between form, function, fossils and phylogeny, this symposium will bring together experts in functional morphology and biomechanical modeling with developers and practitioners of phylogenetic comparative methods–with the goal of cultivating a deeper relationship between macroevolutionary models and biomechanical data and theory.
Invited speaker: Stephanie Pierce “Unravelling the evolution of the mammalian backbone”


Böhmer C, Plateau O, Abourachid A and Cornette R (2018).When development meets mechanical forces: new insights into the morphogenesis of the vertebral column in birds. 2nd Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology in Montpellier, France.

Jones KE, Angielczyk KD, Polly PD, Head JJ, Fernandez V, Lungmus JK, Tulga S, Pierce SE (2018). Fossils reveal the complex evolutionary history of the mammalian regionalized spine. Science 361 (6408): 1249-1252. DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3126.

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