Department of Biology & Biochemistry

Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology

4 South 1.06


Tel: +44 (0) 1225 383504 


Professor Matthew Wills


Current Research

Members of my group are variouslly using the fossil record to answer questions about large scale, ‘macroevolutionary’ processes. Between us, we are interested in how fossils can be useful in building phylogenies, how groups diversify though ‘design space’, and how shifts in developmental programs can underpin the largest, macroevolutionary changes.

Projects being undertaken by current members of my lab include:

  • The phylogeny of Eumalacostraca using molecules, morphology and fossils
  • Testing macroevolutionary trends, particularly patterns of disparity through time
  • The congruence of phylogeny and stratigraphy
  • The quality of phylogentic data
  • How ‘shaky’ are phylogenetic trees including fossils?
  • Fossilisation filters and the Tree of Life
  • Building a supertree of arthropods
  • Ontogenetic disparity and the evolution of molluscs


To improve our understanding of some of the deepest branches in animal evolution, and to evaluate the contribution that fossil make to resolving these.

To test the validity of putative macroevolutionary trends (e.g., early high morphological disparity and increasing complexity).


Sansom, R. S., Wills, M. A. and Williams, T., 2017. Dental data perform relatively poorly in reconstructing mammal phylogenies: Morphological partitions evaluated with molecular benchmarks. Systematic Biology

Davis, K., Hill, J., Astrop, T. and Wills, M., 2016. Global cooling as a driver of diversification in a major marine clade. Nature Communications

O'Connor, A. and Wills, M., 2016. Measuring stratigraphic congruence across trees, higher taxa and time. Systematic Biology, 65 (5), pp. 792-811.

Wills, M., 2016. What do aliens look like? The clue is in evolution. [Non-academic press]

Longrich, N., Sciberras, J. and Wills, M., 2016. Severe extinction and rapid recovery of mammals across the Cretaceous–Palaeogene boundary, and the effects of rarity on patterns of extinction and recovery. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 29 (8), pp. 1495-1512.

Mounce, R. C. P., Sansom, R. and Wills, M. A., 2016. Sampling diverse characters improves phylogenies:craniodental and postcranial characters of vertebrates often imply different trees. Evolution, 70 (3), pp. 666-686.

Ruta, M. and Wills, M. A., 2016. Comparable disparity in the appendicular skeleton across the fish–tetrapod transition, and the morphological gap between fish and tetrapod postcrania. Palaeontology, 59 (2), pp. 249-267.

Davis, K. E., Hesketh, T. W., Delmer, C. and Wills, M. A., 2015. Towards a supertree of Arthropoda:a species-level supertree of the spiny, slipper and coral lobsters (Decapoda: Achelata). PLoS ONE, 10 (10), e0140110.

Wills, M., 2015. Which species will survive the Earth’s sixth mass extinction? [Non-academic press]

Dunhill, A. and Wills, M., 2015. Geographic range did not confer resilience to extinction in terrestrial vertebrates at the end-Triassic crisis. Nature Communications, 6, 7980.

Sansom, R. S. and Wills, M. A., 2013. Fossilization causes organisms to appear erroneously primitive by distorting evolutionary trees. Scientific Reports, 3, 2545.

Hughes, M., Gerber, S. and Wills, M. A., 2013. Clades reach highest morphological disparity early in their evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 110 (34), pp. 13875-13879.

Wills, M.A., Gerber, S., Ruta, M. and Hughes, M., 2012. The disparity of priapulid, archaeopriapulid and palaeoscolecid worms in the light of new data. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 25 (10), pp. 2056-2076.

Rees, R. W., Flood, J., Hasan, Y., Wills, M. A. and Cooper, R. M., 2012. Ganoderma boninense basidiospores in oil palm plantations: evaluation of their possible role in stem rots of Elaeis guineensis. Plant Pathology, 61 (3), pp. 567-578.

Von Reumont, B. M., Jenner, R. A., Wills, M. A., Dell'Ampio, E., Pass, G., Ebersberger, I., Meyer, B., Koenemann, S., Iliffe, T. M., Stamatakis, A., Niehuis, O., Meusemann, K. and Misof, B., 2012. Pancrustacean phylogeny in the light of new phylogenomic data: Support for remipedia as the possible sister group of hexapoda. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 29 (3), pp. 1031-1045.

Mounce, R. C. P. and Wills, M. A., 2011. Phylogenetic position of Diania challenged. Nature, 476 (7359), E1-E4.

O'Connor, A., Mocrieff, C. and Wills, M., 2011. Variation in stratigraphic congruence (GER) through the Phanerozoic and across higher taxa is partially determined by sources of bias. Geological Society of London Special Publication, 358, pp. 31-52.

Wills, M. A., Jenner, R. A. and Dhubhghaill, C. N., 2009. Eumalacostracan evolution:Conflict between three sources of data. Arthropod Systematics & Phylogeny, 67 (1), pp. 71-90.

Jenner, R. A., Dhubhghaill, C. N., Ferla, M. P. and Wills, M. A., 2009. Eumalacostracan phylogeny and total evidence: limitations of the usual suspects. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 9, 21.

Wills, M. A., Barrett, P. M. and Heathcote, J. F., 2008. The Modified Gap Excess Ratio (GER*) and the Stratigraphic Congruence of Dinosaur Phylogenies. Systematic Biology, 57 (6), pp. 891-904.

Gbadegesin, M. A., Wills, M. and Beeching, J. R., 2008. Diversity of LTR-retrotransposons and Enhancer/Suppressor Mutator-like transposons in cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz). Molecular Genetics and Genomics, 280 (4), pp. 305-317.

Adamowicz, S. J., Purvis, A. and Wills, M. A., 2008. Increasing morphological complexity in multiple parallel lineages of the Crustacea. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105 (12), pp. 4786-4791.

This list was generated on Sun Apr 23 22:58:02 2017 IST.

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