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Department of Zoology



I am a PhD student investigating the evolution of Glires (rodents + rabbits) and the information content of fossils, supervised by Dr Robert Asher. The research is very kindly funded by a Whitten Studentship.

Before my PhD, I graduated with a BSc (hons) in Zoology from the University of Glasgow in 2014. My research involved creating a league table for natural history collections based on their impact in scientific literature and the field of genomics by using citation and alternative metrics, supervised by Prof Rod Page. I was also awarded with funding from the Head of College Scholars’ List Scheme to investigate the evolutionary history of marsupial parasites, ascertaining if they were ancient ‘heirlooms’ or more recently acquired ‘souvenirs’.

I then undertook an MSc in Taxonomy and Biodiversity at Imperial College London, in conjunction with the Natural History Museum (NHM). Here I characterised a deep-water moss from a perennially ice-covered lake in Antarctica. I then remained at the NHM as a visiting researcher until May 2016, evaluating the cultivation of mosses from Antarctic glacial ecosystems with Dr Anne Jungblut. I also collaborated with Dr Ross Mounce, text mining open access articles for specimen codes to look at specimen usage over time.


My broad interests include the evolution of Glires (rodents + lagomorphs), which comprise over two thirds of all mammal species. I am also interested in developing ways to assess the information content of fossils and testing their ability to accurately reconstruct phylogeny.

My PhD project will focus on using a heuristic method called ‘artificial extinction’ to test whether the anatomical data present in glires fossils is sufficient to accurately place contemporary members of Glires with known phylogenetic affinities. This will be accompanied by an investigation into the hypothesised biogeographic origins of the group, to which Asia is thought to play a key role. Both of these aims will require an extensive phylogenetic analysis of living and extinct species, sampling anatomy and where possible, DNA.


Key publications: 

Rankin AH, Emry RJ and Asher RJ, 2020. Anatomical Sciuromorphy in "protrogomorph" rodents. Palaeontologia Electronica, 23(2):a5, pp. 1-26. 

Rankin AH, Pressel S, Duckett J, Rimington WR, Hawes I, Sumner DY, Mackey TJ, Castendyke D, Schneider H and Jungblut AD, 2017. Characterisation of a deep-water moss from the perennially ice-covered Lake Vanda, Antarctica. Polar Biology, 40(10), pp. 2063-2076.

Asher RJ, Smith MR, Rankin AH and Emry RJ, 2019. Congruence, fossils and the evolutionary tree of rodents and lagomorphs. Royal Society Open Science, 6, 190387.

PhD Student

Contact Details

Room 304 Austin Building
01223 (3)36629