top of page

Research Objectives


  1. Understand the tempo and mode of morphological evolution, particularly in reptiles.

  2. Elucidate the complex interplay between anatomical changes along developmental and evolutionary time scales.

  3. Investigate both practical and theoretical issues in phylogenetics and geometric morphometrics through the development of analytical tools.

The Watanabe Lab pursues answers to these topics through a synthesis of techniques:


3-D Imaging & Shape Analysis

While direct examination of specimens is essential, we enhance our understanding of both living and extinct organisms using modern imaging techniques, including high-definition surface scans and X-ray computed tomography (XRCT) imaging along with staining protocols for soft-tissue reconstructions. We then use geometric morphometric methods (statistical shape analysis) on these 3-D models to mathematically capture, model, and test anatomical changes that occur during evolutionary and developmental timelines.

Screen Shot 2021-04-08 at 11.54.21

Computational Biology

As scientific data accumulate at an increasing rate, new computational tools are needed to process and identify patterns in large data sets. Besides purely biological questions, I develop new  programs that perform simulations and tests on biological data to assess how a particular protocol or biological phenomenon influences the results of analyses that researchers are using today. Most codes by our lab are written in the R language.



To understand the mechanisms underlying important anatomical changes requires comparative and experimental studies on developing organisms. Our lab uses domesticated chickens (Gallus gallus) as a model system to investigate processes that drives developmental and evolutionary transformations, primarily in craniofacial anatomy.

Select Publications


​For full list of publications: PI's Google Scholar page


Dumbbell-shaped brains of Polish crested chickens as a model system for the evolution of novel brain morphologies

Watanabe, A., S.S. Marshall, P.MN. Gignac. J Anat. doi: 10.1111/joa.13883


Novel neuroanatomical integration and scaling define avian brain shape evolution and development

Watanabe, A, AM Balanoff, PM Gignac, MEL Gold, MA Norell.

Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 2.21.51 PM.png

Ecomorphological diversification in squamates from conserved pattern of cranial integration

Watanabe, A., A.-C. Fabre, R.N. Felice, J.A. Maisano, J. Müller, A. Herrel, A. Goswami. PNAS USA 116:14688–14697. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1820967116


Are endocasts good proxies for brain size and shape in archosaurs throughout ontogeny?

Watanabe, A, PM Gignac, AM Balanoff, TL Green, NJ Kley, MA Norell. 2019. J Anatomy 234:291-305.


How many landmarks are enough to characterize shape and size variation?

Watanabe, A. 2018. PLoS ONE


The impact of poor sampling of polymorphism on cladistic analysis

Watanabe, A. 2016. Cladistics 32:317–334.

bottom of page