Evolution of the enigmatic placoderm group Rhenanida

Aganthus fossil fish

Ellimichthys fossil fish

This project will examine the following genera: JagorinaGemuendina, and Asterosteus on the basis of excellent articulated fossil material. 

The studentship starts on the Oct 1 2018 and is funded by NERC. 

How to apply

Read the eligibility criteria and application guidance below, then send your application to m.brazeau@imperial.ac.uk

Application deadline: 8 January 2018

Research focus

This project will use exceptionally preserved fossil rhenanids combined with digital imaging techniques, like radiography and computed tomography (CT), and computational phylogenetics to investigate and resolve the anatomy and relationships of the rhenanids. This will be used to address key questions about the origin of jawed vertebrate characters.


Jagorina and Gemuendina will be borrowed for study (MDB, Georg-August Universität, Göttingen) in the Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum (macrophotography, radiography), with CT-scanning being largely performed at Bristol University. 3D volume rendering and visualization will be performed at Imperial and the Museum, using computers, programs (Avizo 9.0; Materialise Mimics 19) and drawing pads, specimen photography and examination space provided by the co-supervisors. 


The Rhenanida include a small number of genera characterized by unusual and understudied cranial morphology, generally described before the advent of CT methods.

This project will examine the following genera: JagorinaGemuendina, and Asterosteus on the basis of excellent articulated fossil material.  Fossils of Gemuendina, in particular, are often complete from snout to tip of tail, and include morphological details of the front and hind fins—which can be used to inform our understanding of the earliest fin morphologies, as well as the timing and origin of internal fertilisation structures (i.e. pelvic claspers).

This new data will be 3D volume rendered and used to (re)describe these taxa, plus build a morphological database for a new phylogenetic analysis to resolve the position of rhenanids within early jawed vertebrates. The latter will allow the evolution of various cranial and postcranial characters to be evaluated during this important period of vertebrate evolution. 


The Rhenanida (Devonian) are an enigmatic group of fossil early jawed vertebrates with a ray-like appearance, previously assigned to the Placodermi. Despite being known from a number of articulated and complete fossils, the significance of rhenanids to our understanding of the first jawed vertebrates is poorly known. Nevertheless, rhenanids have the potential inform our understanding of the evolution of jaws and teeth, the skull, paired appendages, and sexual reproductive structures. 


To be eligible for a full award a student must have:

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay.
  • Been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship.
    This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences).
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals).

How to apply

Applicants should apply directly to the lead supervisor with a CV and cover letter. 

Send your application to supervisor: Dr Martin Brazeau at m.brazeau@imperial.ac.uk.

The deadline for applications in 8 January 2018.

Any questions?

If you have any questions about the project please contact

Main supervisor: Dr Martin Brazeau

Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) doctoral training partnership

This is a joint project between The Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) Doctoral Training Partnership at Imperial College London and The Natural History Museum.

Funded by 

Submit your application