Welcome to the
Evolutionary Morphology Lab
at University of Copenhagen

Our group uses high-dimensional, high resolution data to reconstruct morphological transformations in vertebrate history. We compare museum specimens and their fossil ancestors in a phylogenetic framework, often using non-invasive imaging techniques like 3D surface scanning and X-ray CT, combined with geometric morphometrics. Increasingly we integrate morphological information with multi’omic data to identify the tempo and mode of evolution in modern groups. We tend to focus on animals but are interested in all biological forms. Check our Research and Ideas pages for more information.

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Specimen of the month

Michael fox

PhD student Michael Severinsen visited the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles in November to sample canid skulls for CT scanning. Here he is posing with cape fox (Vulpes chama) specimens, native to southern Africa.

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Who we are

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Christy Hipsley
Principal Investigator

I’m an Associate Professor in the Section for Ecology & Evolution, Department of Biology at University of Copenhagen. I specialise in comparative anatomy and vertebrate paleontology – basically anything with bones (and sometimes without). I worked in museums in Europe and Australia before settling in Copenhagen, where I work with The Natural History Museum of Denmark and Danish Technical University (DTU) to document biodiversity in four dimensions.

What we do

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We reconstruct morphological transformations in the 500-million year history of vertebrate life, such as limb loss in lizards and convergent evolution in mammals. These shifts involve fundamental changes in ecology, behaviour, physiology, and development that underlie the origins of major clades and have lasting consequences in the modern forms. Our research covers a range of taxonomic levels and geological ages, from group origins, DNA sequences and individual development, to within-species variation and biodiversity dynamics.

How we do it

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Our research is grounded in natural history collections, where we study biological specimens to quantify morphological variation in space and time. We do this using non-invasive techniques like X-ray computed tomography (CT) and surface scanning to convert complex morphologies into geometric forms. The resulting digital models can be analysed using a growing toolkit of high-dimensional shape analyses, including landmark-based geometric morphometrics and stochastic modelling.

What we believe

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We believe that all people should be treated equally.

We believe in LGBTQ+ rights.

We believe in feminism.

We believe in a safe work environment for the exchange of ideas.

We believe that knowledge should be shared for public benefit.

We believe in Open Data.

We believe in evolution by common descent.

We believe in science.