Research interests
My research focuses on the evolution and development of vertebrate life.

Research projects:

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Swiss Light Source, the synchrotron of the Paul Scherrer Insitut, Villigen, Switzerland.

Tooth plates
The evolution of tooth plates in vertebrates is seen in different phylogenetic groups. From basal forms like placoderms, holocephalans and lungfish we find crushing tooth plates and special tissue types. Hypotheses on development and phylogenetic relationship are tested in fossil and recent groups and help to decipher the evolution of jawed vertebrates. This project is a part of an ERC grant to Martin Brazeau.

Teeth and jaws: evolutionary emergence of a model organogenic system and the adaptive radiation of gnathostomes

Based on my research on placoderms the development and evolution of jaws and teeth is studied in gnathostomes. The research topic was enlarged with more basal placoderms, chondrichthyans, acanthodians, osteichthyans and even agnathans. Also the team was enlarged with John Cunningham, Zerina Johanson, Kate Trinajstic and Philip Anderson. The methods used in the Marie Curie project are applied to the larger group in order to understand the development and function of these important organs (Cunningham et al. 2012). Our data is compared with latest phylogenies and embryonic data (Donoghue & Rücklin early online). The recent hypotheses on the evolution and origin of jaws and teeth are tested including aspects of function and ecology. A part of the project was supported by NERC to Philip Donoghue and Emily Rayfield. My project is growing and going on, enlarged on mesozoic and recent vertebrates, more vertebrate groups applying an array of innovative digital methods to achieve a holistic view on the evolution and development of jaws and teeth.

Jaws evolve
The topic of my research programme was the evolution and development of jaws and teeth in placoderms, the first jawed vertebrates. Using computed tomography (Micro-CT and SRXTM) I achieved a non-invasive insight into the first jaws. I compared this fossil data with embryological data and used it to test recent hypotheses on the evolution of teeth (Rücklin et al. 2012). Ideas on the evolution of teeth from gill denticles in jawless fish were tested using SRXTM (Rücklin et al 2011).
Another aspect was the functional morphology, we tested if morphological changes during ontogeny result in changes in the function. In collaboration with Emily Rayfield and Mark Purnell, we used FEA in order to establish a frame work, which was tested by using microwear analysis. This project was funded by a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in collaboration with Philip Donoghue

Palaeobiology of early vertebrates
The great goal is to get an idea about the evolution and timing of vertebrate key-innovations like jaws and teeth and the dermal skeleton.
Therefore I am studying the evolution and development of skeletons and their histology (Giles et al 2013). I test controversies in phylogeny and try to establish a framework of biomineralisation and skeletogenesis.
Anatomy, phylogeny, palaeoecology and taphonomy of early vertebrates are my main interests. Deciphering the acquisition of vertebrate characters and the evolution of different vertebrate groups is the aim of this study (Rücklin and Clément in press).

Digital methods in palaeobiology
My research includes increasingly x-ray based tomographic methods like MicroCT and SRXTM and application of 3D visualisation and innovative methods in reconstructing developmental palaeobiology, mainly of the vertebrate skeleton (Rücklin et al. 2014). We explore digital techniques in palaeobiology and their applications (Lautenschlager and Rücklin 2014).

Palaeobiogeography of the Devonian

Using fossil data I am testing the current palaeogeographical hypotheses for the Devonian. In particular the timing of the faunal exchange between the convergent continents Gondwana and Laurussia (Rücklin 2010).

Geology and palaeontology of Morocco
During several field-trips we investigated the Devonian of Morocco in an international research team:
In collaboration with Stefan Lubeseder and colleagues we worked on the sedimentology of the Anti-Atlas, as part of the lab of Prof. Jobst Wendt, Tübingen (Lubeseder et al. 2010).
Together with Dieter Korn and Christian Klug we investigated mainly invertebrate assemblages and their palaeoecology.
In collaboration with Brigitte Meyer-Berthaud of the AMAP Montpellier we discovered the earliest fossil trees in the Frasnian of Morocco (Prestianni et al. 2012).

More plants
A new pilot-project using SRXTM to decipher the development of the first land plants started in collaboration with Patricia Kearney from the University of Münster, Germany.