Emmy Noether Junior Research Group

Macroevolution of Birds and Mammals

We investigate a broad range of topics, bringing together large-scale biogeographical patterns and macroevolutionary processes. We work on biodiversity dynamics in time (geological time scales) and space (usually regional or global scale) of terrestrial vertebrates, in particular mammals and birds.

Please see here for more details on our four main themes:

1) Macroevolution of ecological niches, seasonal migration, and diversification in passerine birds
2) Diversity in time and space: integrating across fossil and living mammalian species
3) Global macroevolution, macroecology, and biogeography – the big picture
4) Past, current, and future human impacts on biodiversity

The group has existed since 2014 and works closely with other groups at Senckenberg BiK-F, in particular the working groups of Katrin Böhning-Gaese, Thomas Mueller and Matthias Schleuning.

We are entirely funded through different third-party grants:

Since 2018 Leibniz Competition grant to Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, Leibniz professorship for Susanne Fritz (P52/2017): “Geobiodiversity: assessing the impacts of mountain building and climate change on evolution and ecology of mammals and birds“

Since 2015 Alexander von Humboldt Foundation postdoctoral fellowship to Shan Huang: “Biodiversity-environment association in space and time: How Cenozoic climate influenced large mammals in the Northern Hemisphere”

Since 2014 Emmy Noether grant to Susanne Fritz from the DFG (German Research Foundation / Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft FR 3246/2): “Macroevolution of climatic niches in birds”

Selected publications

Eyres, A., Böhning-Gaese, K. & S. A. Fritz (2017): Quantification of climatic niches in birds: adding the temporal dimension. Journal of Avian Biology 48: 1517-1531, doi: 1111/jav.01308

Huang, S., Eronen, J. T., Janis, C. M., Saarinen, J. J., Silvestro, D. & S. A. Fritz (2017). Mammal body size evolution in North America and Europe over 20 Myr: similar trends generated by different processes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284: 20162361, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2361

Pearse, W. D., Barbosa, A. M., Fritz, S. A., Keith, S. A., Harmon, L. J., Harte, J., Silvestro, D., Xiao, X. & T. J. Davies (2018). Building up biogeography: pattern to process. Journal of Biogeography 45: 1223-1230, doi: 10.1111/jbi.13242



Dr. Susanne Fritz
Head of Emmy Noether Research Group 'Macroevolution of birds and mammals'

Research interests

I am interested in the processes underlying large-scale biogeographic and phylogenetic patterns and their relationships with the abiotic environment in time and space. I have worked on ecology, evolution and conservation of mammals, amphibians and birds, and am now focusing on macroevolution and biogeography of living and fossil birds and mammals.

For more details on my research, please see the description on my working group’s page here

Google Scholar Profile
Researcher ID and Publons 
Full list of publications
Short CV

Editorial Board member at Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 
Subject Editor at Ecography
Associate Editor at Frontiers of Biogeography

Press Releases of the last five years

25/01/2018 – Mammals move less in human-modified landscapes (English), (German
27/02/2017 – New insights into the mechanisms of how ungulates got bigger in the Neogene (English), (German
15/09/2016 – For 20 million years, the diversity of large terrestrial mammals depended on plant growth (English) (German
29/04/2014 – Gehen oder bleiben? – Neue Emmy Noether-Gruppe erforscht die Klima-Anpassung von Vögeln (in German only)
30/09/2013 – Wanted dead and alive – New concept for a better understanding of biodiversity in time and space (English) (German)

Teaching at Goethe University Frankfurt

BSc Biology: “Spezialisierung 2 – Ökologie der Tiere” 
MSc Ecology and Evolution: module “Community ecology, macroecology and conservation”

Dr. Shan Huang
Postdoctoral Researcher, Member of Emmy Noether Research Group 'Macroevolution of birds and mammals'

Research interests

Biodiversity – Macroecology & Macroevolution

I am interested in understanding broad-scale biodiversity dynamics, in space and time. My research approach is synthesizing large ecological and evolutionary data sets to investigate processes that give rise to the dramatic temporal and spatial variation in different aspects of biodiversity, with an emphasis on deciphering the role of history in shaping the modern biota, including evolutionary history of the biotic components and historical environmental transitions.

I have found that different systems have advantages for answering different questions about biodiversity, so I integrate knowledge from studying various organismal systems, including terrestrial mammals, marine bivalves, and parasites. Here at SBiK-F, I combine cross-continent paleontological and neontological data of living and extinct terrestrial large mammals to investigate the various effects of climatic conditions on how biodiversity has been generated and maintained, and how overall biodiversity has been ‘partitioned’ and ‘assembled’ into regional faunas.

Google Scholar Profile

Research website


Selected Publications

Huang, S., Eronen, J.T., Janis, C.M., Saarinen, J J., Silvestro, D. and Fritz, S.A. (2017) Mammal body size evolution in North America and Europe over 20 million years: Similar trends generated by different processes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Jablonski D., Huang S., Roy K., Valentine J.W. (2017) Shaping the latitudinal diversity gradient: New perspectives from a synthesis of paleobiology and biogeography. The American Naturalist.

Stephens, P. R., Altizer, S., Smith, K. F., Aguirre, A. A., Brown, J. H., Budischak, S. A., Byers, J. E., Dallas, T. A., Davies, T. J., Drake, J. M., Ezenwa, V. O., Farrell, M. J., Gittleman, J. L., Han, B. A., Huang, S., Hutchinson, R. A., Johnson, P., Nunn, C. L., Onstad, D., Park, A., Vazquez-Prokopec, G. M., Schmidt, J. P., Poulin, R. (2016) The macroecology of infectious diseases: A new perspective on global-scale drivers of pathogen distributions and impacts. Ecology Letters.

Tomasovych, A., Kennedy, J.,Betzner, T., Bitler Kuehnle, N., Edie, S., Kim, S., Supra, K., White, A., Rahbek, C., Huang, S., Price, T. and Jablonski, D. (2016) Unifying latitudinal gradients in range size and richness across marine and terrestrial systems. Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Huang, S., Roy, K. Valentine, J. W. and Jablonski, D. (2015) Convergence, divergence, and parallelism in marine biodiversity trends: Integrating present-day and fossil data. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Huang, S., Drake, J. M., Gittleman, J. L. and Altizer, S. (2015)  Parasite diversity declines with host evolutionary distinctiveness: a global scale analysis of carnivores. Evolution.

Huang, S., Roy, K. and Jablonski, D. (2015) Origins, bottlenecks, and present-day diversity: Patterns of morphospace occupation in marine bivalves. Evolution.

Alison Eyres
Ph.D. Student, Member of Emmy Noether Research Group 'Macroevolution of birds and mammals'

Research interests

I am interested in understanding the ecological and evolutionary processes that drive patterns of biodiversity. One major factor influencing the distribution of species is climate. As such, my current research focusses on the dynamics of climatic niches in birds.

One-fifth of birds (~2000 species) migrate seasonally between breeding and wintering grounds. However, many studies of climatic niches use only breeding distribution and year-round climate data, ignoring seasonal dynamics in climate and distribution.  For my PhD project, I am using breeding and wintering range maps to characterise and compare climatic niches inhabited by migratory birds during each season in order to determine whether migratory birds track a single climatic niche throughout the year. The results have implications for understanding the drivers of seasonal movements and the evolution of both climatic niches and migration.

Understanding the current climatic niches of birds will allow me to investigate the interplay between past climatic conditions, climatic niche evolution and diversification. I am using current climatic niches obtained from my analyses of migratory birds in combination with phylogenies in order to determine whether climatic niche evolution is related to paleo-climatic conditions, and whether there is there a relationship between the rate of climatic niche evolution and clade diversification.


Since Nov 2014 PhD student at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research centre (BiK-F)

Project: Ecology and evolution of climatic niches in birds Supervisor: Dr Susanne Fritz

2013-2014 MSc Plant Diversity (graduated with distinction) University of Reading_
Master’s thesis: Climatic niche evolution in the genus Hypericum
Supervisors: Dr Mark Carine (NHM) & Dr Alastair Culham (University of Reading)
June-August 2013 Leonardo Da Vinci mobility grant University of Evora
Working on the TytoTagus project: Seeking to understand why there are such a large number of Barn Owls concentrated around
the Tagus estuary.

2012-2013 Senior Research Technician University of Warwick
Investigating plant pathogen interactions using Arabidopsis thaliana and the oomycete Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis as a
model system.

Senior Research Technician University of Warwick
Investigating cell specific gene expression in Arabidopsis thaliana

11-12 2010 Work experience University of Cambridge
Transposon mutagenesis and mutant screens in order to understand the genetic regulation of virulence and quorum sensing in
the plant bacterial pathogen Erwinia caratovora.

2007-2010 B.A.(Hons.) Biological Sciences (2.i) University of Oxford
Relevant finals modules: Evolution & Systematics, Environmental Biology, Quantitative Methods

2005-2007 A levels (4 As) Hills Road, Cambridge
Biology, Maths, Geography, Chemistry

Bowden SD, Eyres A, Chung JCS, Monson RE, Thompson A, Salmond GPC, Spring DR, Welch A. (2013) Virulence in
Pectobacterium atrosepticum is regulated by a coincidence circuit involving quorum sensing and the stress alarmone, (p)ppGpp.

Molecular Microbiology. Volume: 90 Issue (3) p.457-471.
Gronlund J.T, Eyres A, Kumar S, Buchanan-Wollaston V, Gifford ML. (2012) Cell specific analysis of
Arabidopsis leaves using fluorescence activated cell sorting. Journal of Visual Experiments (JoVE). Issue: 68

Katrin Müller
MSc student, Member of Emmy Noether Research Group 'Macroevolution of birds and mammals'
Marie Catherine Grimm
BA student, Member of Emmy Noether Research Group 'Macroevolution of birds and mammals'