Mark Westneat PhD

Robert A. Pritzker Director

Curator of Zoology (Fishes) at the Field Museum of Natural History and Director of the Biodiversity Synthesis Center. Mark's research program focuses on marine and freshwater fishes, the biomechanics of feeding, locomotion and respiration in animals ranging from insects to fishes to birds, and the synthesis of evolutionary trees with biomechanical traits to better understand evolution. In particular his recent research has focused on understanding the biodiversity, function and history of life on coral reefs and the use of large evolutionary trees in combination with biodiversity databases such as EOL to integrate information across disciplines.

Mark W. Westneat --
Curator of Zoology
Robert A. Pritzker Director, Biodiversity Synthesis Center
Field Museum of Natural History
1400 S Lakeshore Dr Chicago, IL 60605-2496
(312) 665-7734


Phylogenetic Systematics, Biomechanics and Biodiversity

Biodiversity Synthesis Center of the Encyclopedia of Life Project

Research Interests:


  • Curator of Zoology (Fishes), Field Museum of Natural History and Director, Biodiversity Synthesis Center of the Encyclopedia of Life
  • Lecturer, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago

SEARCH The Database for the FMNH Fish Collection.

Research on Phylogenetics, Biomechanics, and Coral Reef Biodiversity

Phylogeny of Coral Reef Fishes
We are resolving phylogenetic relationships of many groups of coral reef fishes including the family Labridae (the wrasses, parrotfishes and relatives), Pomacentridae (damselfishes), Chaetodontidae (butterflyfishes), Pomacanthidae (angelfishes), Balistidae (triggerfishes), many eel groups, and other families. We primarily use analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, including some interesting regulatory genes that play roles in building the embryonic head.

The functional morphology of feeding and locomotion in fishes and other animals is being studied by high speed film and video analysis of behavior. Using comparative anatomy, theory from mechanical engineering, and new image and motion analysis techniques, the musculoskeletal mechanisms of feeding and swimming are being described in animals ranging from fishes to turtles, insects, lizards and birds

Evolution of Function. Current studies address the integration of phylogenetic systematics with comparative biomechanics and functional morphology. Using a phylogenetic hypothesis and current comparative methods for analysis of evolution in key characters, this research program tries to clarify the patterns of evolution of functional systems in animals.

Check out the pages on Research to see more detail on the projects going on in the Westneat Lab!