Evolution of the enigmatic placoderm group Rhenanida: Early gnathostome relationships and vertebrate sexual reproduction

This project will use modern techniques to investigate and resolve the anatomy and relationships of the rhenanids.

The studentship starts October 2019 and is funded by NERC. 

How to apply

Read the eligibility criteria and application guidance below, then send your application to the lead supervisor, Dr Martin D Brazeau.

Application deadline: 8 January 2019


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.

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.


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: Jagorina, Gemuendina, 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 includemorphological 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.

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


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

  • British Citizenship or; 
  • 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 - (For non-EU citizens, this must NOT have been in full time education.)
    This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences).  This does not apply to UK nationals. 

For more information, download this PDF.

How to apply

Applications for this PhD are processed through Imperial College.

To apply, please send the following documents to the lead supervisor, Dr Martin D Brazeau

  • Curriculum vitae.
  • Covering letter outlining your interest in the PhD position, relevant skills training, experience and qualifications for the research, and a statement of how this PhD project fits your career development plans.
  • Names of two academic referees.

The deadline for applications is 8 January 2019.

Any questions?

If you have any questions about the project please contact

Main supervisor: Dr Martin D 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