Timothy I Astrop
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Tim Astrop

PhD Candidate, Integrated Bioscience, The University of Akron


Tim Astrop

About Me

My research interests include biological interactions in the fossil record, invertebrate palaeontology, arthropod evolution, geometric morphometric methods, systematics and phylogenetics. I unashamedly love invertebrates, learning new and interesting ways to quantify morphology and am always looking to encourage the essential consideration of palaeontology and biology by either science through promoting communication between the two.

Sexual System Evolution

My current research concentrates upon the evolution of mating systems over geologic time using enigmatic small branchiopod crustaceans called clam shrimp (Branchiopoda: Spinicaudata). These freshwater crustaceans are distributed globally and are found in the fossil record on every continent, the oldest of which is dated to the Late Devonian some 350-400 million years old. In an integrated palaeontological and biological approach I am trying to understand the evolution of the several different mating systems that are known in living clam shrimp. Across the three extant families there are species that exhibit male/female (dioecious) populations, male/self-fertilizing hermaphrodite (androdioecious) populations and in some cases species are represented by "selfing" hermaphrodites alone. I employ contemporary morphometric techniques in order to quantify differences in carapace shape between the different sexes and subsequently diagnose sexual systems via the ratio of sexual dimorphs in fossil populations.

Tim Astrop

Taphonomic Experiments

As the vagaries of preservation present a source of error that is important to account for in morphological studies, I have designed a number of experiments to test how the bivalved carapace (often the only preserved feature) withs tands taphonomic processes such as desiccation, decay, transport and by integrating material science techniques that allow us to assess taxonomic differences in carapace robustness in order to identify preservational bias that may exist between taxa.


Phylogenetics

The Spinicaudata provide an interesting problem for contemporary evolutionary theory in that the evolutionary instability and reduced lineage longevity associated with increased inbreeding (in the form of self fertilizing hermaphrodites) in this group is not apparent. If the periodic occurrence of hermaphroditism is both an ancient and stable phenomena in the Spinicaudatan clam shrimp, serious attention should be given in revision of the biological dogma that reduced outcrossing is always bad. When considered alongside other sexual systems within the branchiopoda, the persistence of a sexual lability as an adaptation for reproductive assurance and environmental instability seems likely. This research is currently in progress using genetic information alongside the fossil record and palaeo-phylogeographic hypotheses to investigate the number, timing and dynamics of sexual system transitions in this group.

Travel and Collaboration

I am currently travelling to fossil repositories worldwide in order to examine collections of fossil clam shrimp using funding awarded by the National Science Foundation, this awesome opportunity has lead to some thoroughly exciting discussions and collaborations concerning all aspects of palaeobiology and phylogenetics.

Grad students of the Gallego laboratory

With the graduate students of the Gallego laboratory in Corrientes, Argentina, May 2012



At the Palaeontological Institute (Royal Academy of Sciences in Feb 2013 to study Novojilov's extensive fossil clam shrimp collection

At the Palaeontological Institute (Royal Academy of Sciences) In Moscow, Russia to study Novojilov's extensive fossil clam shrimp collection (Feb 2013)



Contact

Department of Biology; University of Akron; Akron, OH 44325-3908

Phone: 330 972 6399

Email: tia10@zips.uakron.edu