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David Wright

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David F. “Davey” Wright

Brett Carpenter

Assistant Professor of Geosciences
Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology, Sam Noble Museum

Ph.D., 2016, The Ohio State University
M.S., 2012, Ohio University
B.S., 2010, University of Kansas

Office: SEC 826

David F. Wright CV

Faculty Page

Areas of Interest

Macroevolution, Paleontology, Phylogenetics, Echinoderm paleobiology, Crinoidea


I am an invertebrate paleontologist and evolutionary biologist who combines specimen-based data from the fossil record with statistical phylogenetic methods to better understand the origin, maintenance, and modification of biological diversity throughout the history of life.  My research program revolves around three interconnected and reciprocally illuminating themes: (1) macroevolution, (2) integrating statistical phylogenetic methods with the fossil record, and (3) documenting the biodiversity, systematics, and geological history of marine invertebrate animals, especially fossil echinoderms. Fundamental to my research is the reconstruction and downstream macroevolutionary analysis of phylogenetic trees of fossil species. I specialize in the application of Bayesian methods to infer phylogenies and the application of statistical Phylogenetic Comparative Methods (PCMs) to investigate macroevolutionary dynamics in extinct lineages. I have wide-ranging experience and expertise in the systematics of fossil invertebrates, ranging from brachiopods to Paleozoic arthropods, but most of my work focuses on Phylum Echinodermata (starfish, sea urchins, and kin), especially the Crinoidea (sea lilies & feather stars). My taxonomically-focused research has formally described dozens of Paleozoic echinoderm taxa, including many new species and higher taxa, and much of my research uses the ~half-billion-year echinoderm fossil record as a natural experiment and laboratory to investigate questions at the nexus of macroevolutionary theory, Earth history, and paleobiology.

Courses Taught

Evolutionary Paleobiology
History of Earth and Life

Selected Publications

Thuy, B., Eriksson, M.E., Kutscher, M., Lindgren, J., Numberger-Thuy, L.D., and Wright, D.F., 2022, Miniaturization during a Silurian environmental crisis generated the modern brittle star body plan. Nature Communications Biology, 5 (14), doi: 10.1038/s42003-021-02971-9 Online

Wright, A.M, Wagner, P.J., and Wright, D.F., 2021, Testing character-evolution models in phylogenetic paleobiology: a case study with Cambrian echinoderms. Elements in Paleontology, doi: 10.1017/9781009040016, Online.

Soul, L.C. and Wright, D.F., 2021, Phylogenetic comparative methods: a user’s guide for paleontologists. Elements in Paleontology. Online.  

Barido-Sottani, J., van Tiel, N., Hopkins, M.J., Wright, D.F., Stadler, T. and Warnock, R.C.M., 2020, Ignoring fossil age uncertainty leads to inaccurate topology and divergence time estimates using time calibrated tree inference. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 8:183 doi: 10.3389/fevo.2020.00183. Online.

Zamora, S, Wright, D.F, Mooi R., Lefebvre, B, Guensburg, T.E., Gorzelak, P., David, B., Cole, S.R., Sumrall, C.D., Hunter, A., Sprinkle, J., Thompson, J.R., Ewin, T., Fatka, O., Nardin, E., Reich, M., Nohejlová, M., and * Rahman, I.A. 2020, Re-evaluating the phylogenetic position of the enigmatic early Cambrian deuterostome Yanjiahella. Nature Communications, 11, Article number: 1286 Online

Wright, D.F., Cole, S.R., and Ausich, W.I., 2019, Biodiversity, systematics, and new taxa of cladid crinoids from the Upper Ordovician (Katian) Brechin  Lagerstätte. Journal of Paleontology. Online

Wright, D.F., 2017, Phenotypic innovation and adaptive constraints in the evolutionary radiation of Palaeozoic crinoids. Nature Scientific Reports, 7(1), 13745. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-13979-9. Online

Wright, D.F. and Toom, U., 2017, New crinoids from the Baltic region (Estonia): fossil tip-dating phylogenetics constrains the origin and Ordovician–Silurian diversification of the Flexibilia (Echinodermata). Palaeontology, 60: 893-910. Online

Wright, D.F., W.I. Ausich, S.R. Cole, M.E. Peter, and E.C., Rhenberg, 2017, Phylogenetic taxonomy and classification of the Crinoidea (Echinodermata). Journal of Paleontology, 91: 829-846. Online

Wright, D.F., 2017, Bayesian estimation of fossil phylogenies and the evolution of early to middle Paleozoic crinoids (Echinodermata). Journal of Paleontology, 91: 799-814. Online