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Department of Zoology



My research interests lie in the evolution and development of the axial skeleton in jawed vertebrates. In particular, I study the development of vertebral column in cartilaginous fishes (sharks, skates, rays, and chimaeras) to understand how this segmented structure evolved across jawed vertebrates, and how different groups have invented their own unique vertebral morphologies.


Key publications: 

Criswell KE and Gillis JA. 2020. Resegmentation is an ancestral feature of the gnathostome vertebral skeleton. eLife 2020;9:e51696.

Criswell KE, Coates MI, and Gillis JA. 2017. Embryonic origin of the gnathostome vertebral skeleton. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284:20172121.

Gillis JA, Alsema E, and Criswell KE. 2017. A trunk neural crest origin of dermal denticles in a cartilaginous fish. PNAS 114:13200-13205.

Criswell KE, Coates MI, and Gillis JA. 2017. Embryonic development of the axial column in the little skate, Leucoraja erinacea. Journal of Morphology 278:300-320.

Coates MI, Gess RW, Finarelli JA, Criswell KE, and Tietjen K. 2017. A symmoriiform chondrichthyan braincase and the origin of chimaeroid fishes. Nature 541:208-211.

Criswell KE. 2015. The comparative osteology and phylogenetic relationships of African and South American lungfishes. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 174:801-858.

Other publications: 

Rawlinson KA, Lapraz F, Ballister ER, Terasaki, M, Rodgers J, McDowell RJ, Girstmair J, Criswell KE, Boldogkoi M, Simpson F, Goulding D, Cormie C, Hall B, Lucas RJ, and Telford MJ. 2019. Extraocular, rod-like photoreceptors in a flatworm express xenopsin photopigment. eLife 2019;8:e45465.

Coates MI, Finarelli JA, Sansom IJ, Andreev PS, Criswell KE, Tietjen K, Rivers ML, and La Riviere PJ. 2018. An early chondrichthyan and the evolutionary assembly of a shark body plan. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 285:20172418.

Stocker MR, Nesbitt SJ, Criswell KE, Parker WG, Witmer LM, Rowe TB, Ridgely R, and Brown MA. 2016. A dome-headed stem-archosaur exemplifies convergence among dinosaurs and their distant relatives. Current Biology 26:2674-2680. 

Molineux A, Zachos L, Criswell KE, and Risien T. 2012. GIS, the key to collections management of a large research archive. Collection Forum 26:60-69.

Downs JP, Criswell KE, and Daeschler EB. 2011. Mass mortality of juvenile placoderms (Bothriolepis sp.) from the Catskill Formation (Upper Devonian, Famennian Stage), Tioga County, Pennsylvania. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 161:191-203.

Research Associate
Charles & Katharine Darwin Research Fellow

Contact Details

Zoology Museum
Downing Street