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Nalani Schnell

My primary research interests are the comparative morphology, phylogeny and evolution of teleosts. In order to understand the morphology of adult teleosts and their phylogenetic relationships, it is crucial to include investigations on their developmental stages. Larval stages and characters during early ontogeny have rarely been included in morphological analysis, although larvae provide a character information source unavailable in the adult. Ontogenetic stages further provide additional characters for phylogenetic inference and an independent test of evolutionary relationships.

I hope that investigating larval stages of Lophiiformes, Tetraodontiformes, Ophidiiformes will shed light on longstanding phylogenetic questions regarding their intra- and interrelationships.

Further I am particularly interested in the adult morphology of meso- and bathypelagic fishes in conjunction with their larval ontogeny, trying to understand how complex structures like, for example, the complete reduction of the anterior vertebrae in the barbeled dragonfishes (Stomiidae) have evolved.

Together with Prof. Ed Houde (University of Maryland) I taught a larval fish identification course that includes lectures on osteology and phylogeny of Teleostei. The practical part of this course involves the identification of larval examples of 190 marine teleost families, which represents 80% of the teleost families for which larval stages are known. This course was offered at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).