Dr Allison Daley

Allison Daley
  • Postdoctoral Researcher
  • Earth Sciences department
  • Palaeobiology Collections
Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road


Current Position

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Since March 2011

Research topic: The evolution and ontogeny of the anomalocaridids. Funding from Vetenskapsrådet (Swedish Research Council).

Doctoral Degree

Uppsala University, Sweden

January 2006 to March 2010

Filosofie doctorsexamen (PhD) in Earth Sciences. 

Dissertation title: The morphology and evolutionary significance of the anomalocaridids.

Higher Education

Uppsala University, Sweden

January 2006 to April 2009

Filosofie Licentiatexamen (Licentiate of Pilosophy) in Earth Sciences. 

Dissertation title: Diversity and phylogeny of anomalocaridids from the Burgess Shale, Canada. 

The University of Western Ontario, Canada. 

September 2003 to December 2005

M.Sc. in Earth Sciences. 

Dissertation title: Temporal and spatial trends of boring patterns in Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian brachiopods from northern and eastern Canada. 

Queen's University at Kingston, Canada.

September 1999 to April 2003

B. Sc. (Honours) in Biology and Geological Sciences. 

Dissertation title: Investigating the history of Sockeye Salmon in Little Klukshu Lake, Yukon Territory. 

Professional Roles

Grants and funding

1. Vetenskapsrådet (VR) Swedish Research Council postdoctoral funding awarded March 2011

2. Palaeontological Association Research Grant awarded May 2011

3. C. F. Liljewalchs Travel Stipend awarded April 2009

4. NSERC Canadian Graduate Scholarship M.Sc. funding awarded January 2004

5. Ontario Graduate Scholarship M. Sc. funding awarded January 2004 (declined)


1. Outreach Award from the Department of Earth Sciences at University of Western Ontario awarded June 2005

2. Charles A. Southworth Memorial Prize in Palaeontology at the University of Western Ontario awarded June 2004. 

3. Gold Medal in Geological Sciences for highest standing in my undergraduate graduating class at Queen's University awarded May 2003.

4. Susan Near Prize for excellence in petrology and igneous geology at Queen's University awarded May 2003. 

5. William E. White Scholarship for highest standing in my third year undergraduate class at Queen's University awarded May 2002. 

Academic Experience

1. Honorary Research Associate, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, UK. October 2010 to September 2013.

2. Teaching Assistant, Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Sweden. February 2009 to February 2010.

3. Teacher Training Course for university teachers, Uppsala University, Sweden. April 2008 to June 2008.

4. Teaching Assistant, Department of Biology and Earth Sciences, The University of Western Ontario, Canada. September 2003 to December 2004. 

5. Junior Field Assistant, Ontario Geological Survey, Canada. June 2003 to August 2003. 

6. Field and Research Assistant, Department of Geological Sciences, Queen's University, Canada. May 2002 to September 2002.

7. Geochemistry Research Assistant and Clean Lab Manager, Department of Geological Sciences, Queen's University, Canada. May 2001 to April 2002. 


Cambrian stem-lineage arthropods

Reconstruction of Hurdia Victoria

Reconstruction of the anomalocaridid Hurdia victoria by M. Collins. Copyright AAAS/Science - 2009.

Cambrian fossil lagerstätten, such as the Burgess Shale, provide a wealth of exceptionally preserved arthropods with soft-part preservation, providing opportunities to study the early evolution of this phylum in detail. The anomalocaridids are large presumed pelagic predators with unusual morphology that occupy a basal position in the arthropod stem lineage. Collaborative efforts with Graham Budd (Uppsala University), Greg Edgecombe (Natural History Museum), Jean-Bernard Caron (Royal Ontario Museum) and John Peel (Uppsala University) have so far focused on describing new taxa from the Burgess Shale and Sirius Passet, including Hurdia, which is known from whole-body specimens, and several isolated appendages. This work also examined the relationships between anomalocaridids and stem- and crown-lineage arthropods such as Opabinia and the Megacheirans. Further aspects of anomalocaridid systematics, growth and development, and functional morphology are the topics of ongoing collaborations and projects.


Geometric Morphometrics

The application of multivariate and morphometric statistics to Palaeontological problems can help elucidate morphological, ecological and taphonomic problems. In soft-bodied fossil material, a morphometric approach is often hampered by problems with preservation, since the appearance of the fossils is highly dependent on its orientation to bedding.

Hurdia victoria specimen USNM 274159

Photograph of Hurdia victoria whole-body specimen from the Burgess Shale. USNM 274159, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Photo by A. Daley.

However, morphometrics have been applied with some success to carapace elements in the anomalocaridid Hurdia, with direct implications for the systematics of the genus. On-going collaborations with Norman Macleod (Natural History Museum) will involve combining morphometric data with size data to gain information on the ontogeny and growth of the anomalocaridids. Previous work has used multivariate analyses to decipher the patterns of early drilling predation on branchiopods in the Palaeozoic.


Timing and tempo of arthropod evolution

Generalized phylogenetic tree of stem- and crown-group arthropods.

Generalized phylogenetic tree of stem- and crown-group arthropods. Illustrations by M. Streng.

Palaeontoligcal data can be used to calibrate and constrain molecular clocks, providing a timeframe for the evolution of animal life. Increasing sophisticated methods are being used both to produce molecular phylogenies and to apply fossil data to these phylogenies to get an idea of the timing of divergences in the tree. Collaborative efforts with Omar Rota Stabelli (IASMA-FEM, Province of Trento) have involved accumulating the largest and most complete set of fossil calibrations for Ecdysozoa known to date, and combining this information with molecular phylogenies to examine the mode and tempo of arthropod evolution.


The early evolution of predation

Walcott Quarry of the Burgess Shale

Walcott Quarry of the Burgess Shale, Canadian Rocky Moutains. Photo by A. Daley.

Predation is often cited as one of the driving forces behind the earliest evolution of animals in the lower Palaeozoic. Exploration of the establishment of predation has focused on examination of Earth’s earliest super predators, the anomalocaridids, from Cambrian sites such as the Burgess Shale, Sirius Passet and Emu Bay Shale, as well as traces of predation in the early and middle Palaeozoic (borings in brachiopod shells). Deciphering the ecology of the earliest predators and the extent of the effects of predation on early animal communities is part of the ongoing work utilizing morphological descriptions and multivariate statistics.


  • Daley, A.C., Budd, G.E. and Caron, J.-B. ( 2013 ) Morphology and systematics of the anomalocaridid arthropod Hurdia from the Middle Cambrian of British Columbia and Utah Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 11 : . 10.1080/14772019.2012.732723
  • Daley, A.C., Paterson, J.R., Edgecombe, G.D., Garcia-Bellido, D.C. and Jago, J.B. ( 2013 ) New anatomical information on Anomalocaris from the Cambrian Emu Bay Shale of South Australia and a reassessment of its inferred predatory habits. Palaeontology 56 : . doi:10.1111/pala.12029
  • Rota-Stabelli, A., Daley, A.C. and Pisani, D. ( 2013 ) Molecular timetrees reveal a Cambrian colonization of land and a new scenario for ecdysozoan evolution. Current Biology 23 : 1-7 . http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2013.01.026
  • Budd, G. E. and Daley, A. C. ( 2012 ) The lobes and lobopods of Opabinia regalis from the middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. Lethaia 45 : 83-95 . 10.1111/j.1502-3931.2011.00264.x
  • Daley, A. C. and Bergstoem, J. ( 2012 ) The oral cone of Anomalocaris is not a classic "Peytoia". Naturwissenschaften 99 : 501-504 . 10.1007/s00114-012-0910-8
  • Caron, J.-B., Gaines, R. R., Mangano, M. G., Streng, M., and Daley, A. C. ( 2010 ) A new Burgess Shale-type assemblage from the "thin" Stephen Formation of the southern Canadian Rockies. Geology 38 : 811-814 . 10.1130/G31080.1
  • Daley, A.C. and Budd, G.E. ( 2010 ) New anomalocaridid appendages from the Burgess Shale, Canada Palaeontology 53 : 721-738 . 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2010.00955.x
  • Daley, A.C. and Peel, J.S.  ( 2010 ) A possible anomalocaridid from the Cambrian Sirius Passet lagerstatte, North Greenland. Journal of Paleontology 84 : 352-355 . 10.1666/09-136R1.1
  • Daley. A.C., Budd, G.E., Caron, J-B., Edgecombe, G.D. and Collins, D. ( 2009 ) The Burgess Shale Anomalocaridid Hurdia and Its Significance for Early Euarthropod Evolution. Science 323 : 1597-1600 . 10.1126/science.1169514
  • Fischer, A. H. L., Arboleda, E., Egger, B., Hilbrant, M., McGregor, A. P., Cole, A. G. and Daley, A. C. ( 2009 ) ZOONET: Perspectives on the Evolution of Animal Form. Meeting Report. Journal of Experimental Zoology, Molecular and Developmental Evolution 312B : 679-685 . 10.1002/jez.b.21294
  • Daley, A. C. ( 2008 ) Statistical analysis of mixed-motive shell borings in Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian brachiopods from northern and eastern Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 45 : 213-229 . 10.1139/E07-061