Mark Westneat PhD

Former Robert A. Pritzker Director

Mark is Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago, is a Research Associate in Zoology at the Field Museum of Natural History and is the former Director of the Biodiversity Synthesis Center. Mark's research program focuses on marine and freshwater fishes, the assessment and conservation of coral reef fishes, the biomechanics of feeding, locomotion and respiration in animals ranging from insects to fishes to birds, and the synthesis of evolutionary trees with biomechanical traits to better understand evolution.

Mark W. Westneat --
Research Associate in Zoology
Field Museum of Natural History
1400 S Lakeshore Dr Chicago, IL 60605-2496
(312) 665-7734


Phylogenetic Systematics, Biomechanics and Biodiversity

Research Interests:


  • Research Associate in Zoology (Fishes), Field Museum of Natural History and former Director, Biodiversity Synthesis Center
  • Professor, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago

Research on Phylogenetics, Biomechanics, and Coral Reef Biodiversity

Phylogeny of Coral Reef Fishes
We are resolving phylogenetic relationships of many groups of coral reef fishes including the family Labridae (the wrasses, parrotfishes and relatives), Pomacentridae (damselfishes), Chaetodontidae (butterflyfishes), Pomacanthidae (angelfishes), Balistidae (triggerfishes), many eel groups, and other families. We primarily use analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, including some interesting regulatory genes that play roles in building the embryonic head.

The functional morphology of feeding and locomotion in fishes and other animals is being studied by high speed film and video analysis of behavior. Using comparative anatomy, theory from mechanical engineering, and new image and motion analysis techniques, the musculoskeletal mechanisms of feeding and swimming are being described in animals ranging from fishes to turtles, insects, lizards and birds

Evolution of Function. Current studies address the integration of phylogenetic systematics with comparative biomechanics and functional morphology. Using a phylogenetic hypothesis and current comparative methods for analysis of evolution in key characters, this research program tries to clarify the patterns of evolution of functional systems in animals.