Paleobiology and Macroevolution

The Marcot Lab is broadly interested in biological diversity in all its facets. We integrate data from fossil and extant taxa using a phylogenetic approach to determine general mechanisms of evolutionary diversification.

Traditionally, the study of biologic diversification was largely restricted to the field of paleontology, in which the stratigraphic distributions of taxa serve as a record of their evolutionary history. In the past two decades, phylogenetic methods have allowed neontologists to exploit new sources of data derived from extant organisms to address the same questions. We integrate data from extant and fossil organisms to quantitatively test hypotheses of large-scale morphologic and taxonomic evolution. We also develop novel quantitative tools that enable more accurate reconstructions of the history of life and rigorous testing of macroevolutionary hypotheses.




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April 2012 - Two graduate students, David Birlenbach and Spencer Hellert, have accepted their offers of admission and will join the Marcot Lab in Fall 2012. Welcome David and Spencer!

Marcot Lab undergraduates Amanda Glynn and Darcy Ross have successfully defended their senior theses, and been awarded "Distinction" in the major. Congratulations Amanda and Darcy!

March 2012 - Marcot lab undergraduates Amanda Glynn and Darcy Ross have accepted graduate school positions at UC Davis and University of Chicago, respectively. Best of luck Amanda and Darcy!

The Marcot Lab is always looking to recruit exceptional undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows with interests in macroevolution, paleontology, and/or systematic biology. MS and PhD graduate students can be accepted to the lab through the Department of Animal Biology, or the PEEC program. Interested students or potential postdoctoral fellows should contact Dr. Jonathan Marcot at jmarcot at

Marcot Lab

665 Morrill Hall

University of Illinois

Urbana, IL 61801

Telephone: 217-244-6826

Email: jmarcot at illinois dot edu

Ongoing Research Projects


Mammalian diversification

The Marcot Lab incorporates phylogenetic, morphometric, and molecular approaches to investigate whether mammalian diversification tends to be driven by features of the diversifying group (e.g., "key adaptations"), or by interactions with their external environment (e.g., climate change, competition, predation, etc.). A particular focusof this research is the features causing the evolutionary radiation of artiodactyl mammals.

Phylogenetic methods

The range of scientific hypotheses that we can address is limited by the methods we have to test them. As such, a major research focus of the Marcot Lab is developing new phylogenetic methods and software.

Biological complexity

Cellular organisms are hierarchical structures:  cells are composed of organelles, multicellular organisms of many cells, and so on.  Evolutionary increases in hierarchical structure have contributed to some of the most important events in the history of life. Because of this, the Marcot Lab is investigating the processes that affect the evolution of hierarchical structure.