Dr. Wilson Mantilla studies the evolution of reptiles of the Mesozoic Era, which lasted from 250 to 65 million years ago, to understand the processes that shaped the extraordinary diversity that emerged during that interval. His research integrates empirical observations from field and museum research with computational analyses of evolutionary relationships and experimental studies of functional morphology.
Field Research: Indo-Pakistan
The Mesozoic Era is an ideal setting for investigation of the interplay between geographical changes and evolution of terrestrial biota because of the dramatic rearrangements of continental landmasses and the diversification of land animals that took place simultaneously. Early in the Mesozoic, dinosaurs and other large land vertebrates enjoyed genetic connectedness on Pangea that is readily apparent in the similarities in the skeletons of animals that lived quite far from one another. Late in the Mesozoic, in contrast, rising sea level and tectonic activity severed connections between landmasses, creating large island continents, each seeded with its own constituent flora and fauna. He is interested in how the faunal and floral composition of these emerging islands was shaped by processes of vicariant evolution, extinction, and dispersal.