Ahlberg research group

450 million years of evolution in vertebrates.


The Per Ahlberg research group focuses on vertebrate evolution and early development. We mainly focus on fossil resources but also study genomics and gene expression in zebrafish for better understanding of how the main vertebrate characters originates. Our research sometimes gives surprising results, such as the enamel on vertebrate teeth that has evolved from fishes scales.

See a recent publication on the evolution of enamel in Nature 526, 108-111.

Examples of questions we address

  • How did the transition from jawless to jawed vertebrates happen, and what did the intermediate steps look like?
  • How did the unique hard tissues of vertebrates, such as bone, dentine and enamel, evolve?
  • What was the genetic and developmental basis for these events?
  • How are the major living vertebrate groups related to each other?
  • Are sharks really "primitive vertebrates", as has so often been claimed?
  • When did vertebrates first move onto land, and why is it that the earliest fossil footprints of land vertebrates are much older than the oldest skeletons?
  • When did body coverings such as hair and feathers evolve?
  • Can we know anything about the ecosystems and lifestyles of early land vertebrates - who ate whom, for example?

Group members

Research leader: Per Ahlberg
Group members: Most of the people in the program work in different constellations within Ahlberg's group.