I am a palaeobiologist interested in the evolution and development of life. Hypotheses from biological sciences propose that the evolution of life is driven towards increasing complexity by key innovations. As a model for this I study the origin and evolution of jaws and teeth and the dermal skeleton. Using mainly non-invasive X-ray microscopy I reconstruct the histology of tissue types and growth of structures.
Contrary to traditional hypotheses I demonstrated that the first teeth evolved in placoderms, the sister group to all living jawed vertebrates. In my current research on the evolution of jaws and teeth, supported by a Vidi grant from NWO, I test hypotheses on the evolution of tooth replacement in jawed vertebrates, especially in osteichthyans. In my team we investigate the evolution of complexity using dental complexity as a model, we investigate the evolution of modularity of vertebrate jaws and the evolution of dental gene-regulation using computational models.