Bever Lab

Gabriel Bever, PhD

Gabriel Bever, PhD

Associate Professor, Functional Anatomy & Evolution

Secondary Appointments:
Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences
Department of Medicine (Division of Cardiology)


Research in the Bever Lab examines the theory and practice of evolutionary inference, focusing on the challenges/potential represented by long phylogenetic stem lineages.  The Bever Lab integrates diverse forms of data – from genomic to developmental to paleontological – to better understand the evolutionary history of functional complexes in biology.  

Dr. Bever is interested in integrating pattern and experimental data within a tree-based framework that reflects evolutionary theory.  Specific components of his research program include the evolutionary origin of the major vertebrate crown clades and their body plans, the evolution of vertebrate sensory systems, and the macroevolutionary implications of how developmental dynamics regulate phenotypic variability. 


  • Ph.D. Paleobiology, University of Texas at Austin, 2006
  • M.S. Geosciences, Fort Hays State University, 2000
  • B.S. Biology, Pittsburg State University, 1997

Research Projects

Origin of Crown Clades and their Body Plans

    Major vertebrate crown clades are the product of long phylogenetic stem lineages. The Bever Lab uses an integrated approach and diverse data to reconstruct these deep histories. Specific projects address the Origin of Turtles, Origin of Birds, Origin of Therian Mammals, and the Origin of Vertebrates. 

    Evolution of the Central Nervous and Sensory Systems

      The Bever Lab studies the origin of the modern avian brain and sensory systems using a combination of development, fossils, and experimental functional data. Projects range from the embryology of avian olfaction to the endocast morphology of dinosaurs to the in-vivo imaging of bird brains during flight.

      Evolution of variability

        How phenotypic expression is regulated changes over time resulting in a variability dynamic with wide-ranging biological implications.

        The Bever Lab studies how these microevolutionary dynamics relate to macroevolutionary patterns, especially with regards to how fossil data might be more meaningfully integrated into broad-based evolutionary analyses.

        Fossils and molecules in evolutionary theory

        The Bever Lab studies theory & practice of evolutionary inference, focusing on the challenges/potential represented by long phylogenetic stem lineages.

        We use an integrative approach utilizing molecular, developmental, anatomical, and paleontological data set within a quantitative, tree-based framework that reflects evolutionary theory

        Selected Publications

        Lyson, T.R., T.M. Scheyer, B.Rubidge, K. de Queiroz, E.R. Schachner, R. Smith, J. Botha-Brink, and G.S. Bever. (2016) Fossorial origin of the turtle shell. Current Biology 26: 1887–1894. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.05.020

        Bever GS, Norell MA. 2017. A new rhynchocephalian (Reptilia: Lepidosauria) from the Upper Jurassic of Solnhofen (Bavaria) and the origin of the marine Pleurosauridae. Royal Society Open Science. 2017; 4(11) 170570. 

        Bever, G.S. T.R. Lyson, D.J. Field, B.-A.S. Bhullar. 2016. The amniote temporal roof and the diapsid origin of the turtle skull. Zoology. DOI: 10.1016/j.zool.2016.04.005

        Hogan AVC, Watanabe A, Balanoff AM, Bever GS. Morphogenesis and growth of the olfactory apparatus in chick: implications for avian evolution. Journal of Anatomy. 2020; 237(2): 225-240. 

        Lyson TR, Bever GS. Evolutionary origin of the turtle body plan. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 2020; 51: 143-166. 

        Bever, G.S., T.R. Lyson, D.J. Field, and B.-A.S. Bhullar. (2015) Evolutionary origin of the turtle skull. Nature 525: 239–242. DOI: 10.1038/nature14900

        Balanoff AM, Bever GS. The role of endocasts in the study of brain evolution. In Kass J, ed. Evolution of Nervous Systems, 2nd edition; pp. 223-241. 2016; Elsevier Press, London. 

        Balanoff, A.M., Bever, G.S., Rowe, T.B., and Norell, M.A. (2013) Evolutionary origins of the avian brain. Nature 501: 93-96. DOI: 10.1038/nature12424


        Fernando Torres

        Fernando Torres

        PhD Graduate Student

        • Phylogenetics and Phylogenomics
        • Evolutionary process and trends
        • Testudines evolution and diversification
        • Avian evolution
        • Biomechanics and Morphometrics
        William Foster

        William Foster

        PhD Graduate Student

        • Theropod dinosaur anatomy and ontogeny
        • Archosaur evolution
        Jacob Wilson

        Jacob Wilson

        PhD Graduate Student

        • Variation and macroevolutionary patterns
        Aneila V.C. Hogan

        Aneila V.C. Hogan

        PhD Graduate Student

        • Evolution and comparative anatomy of sensory mechanics
        • Large scale radiation events of tetrapods
        • Paleontological approaches to evolutionary development
        • Craniomandibular morphology
        Yi-Chieh “EJ” Huang

        Yi-Chieh “EJ” Huang

        PhD Graduate Student


        • Phylogenetic Theory and Methods
        • Evolution models
        • Integration of Molecular & Morphological data
        • Mammal Evolution
        Don Cerio, PhD

        Don Cerio, PhD

        Post-Doctoral Fellow

        • visual systems of birds, reptiles, and their extinct relatives.
        • morphological and functional trade-offs between the eyes and other cranial tissues
        • shed light on the selective regimes under which these trade-offs arose

        Courses Taught


        Fundamentals of Anatomy

        This summer course introduces students in the Nurse Anesthetist Doctor of Nursing Practice program to human anatomy using a regional approach. The course is broken into 3 parts – (1) thorax, abdomen, pelvis (2) limbs and back, and (3) head and neck. Within each part, information is presented on the relevant regional topics via: readings and lectures; student observation of prosections in lab; student collaboration to complete model- and computer-based activities.

        ME: 130.600

        SFM Human Gross Anatomy

        This seven-week Human Anatomy course is taught to first year medical students in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Designed to provide a comprehensive regional approach to the human body, this course includes lecture, cadaver dissection with emphasis on the three-dimensional relationships of anatomic structures, clinical correlations, medical imaging sessions, and team-based learning small group activities.


        Evolutionary Theory & Phylogenetic Comparative Methods

        This course examines the theory and techniques of evolutionary analysis with special emphasis on vertebrate anatomical and developmental systems. We will examine and critique classic and emerging viewpoints regarding core evolutionary concepts. We will review basic approaches to tree construction (parsimony and model-based) and investigate both directional and non-directional statistical methods for studying evolution in a comparative phylogenetic context.  


        Introduction to Histology

        Introduction to basics of histology, using online M-scope imagery and Inverse-lectures developed for Scientific Foundations of Medicine, plus individual instruction by FAE faculty.


        Evolution & Development of the Vertebrates 

        Modern vertebrates (animals with backbones) are the products of a more than 500-million-year evolutionary history. This course surveys that history and uses it to explore such core evolutionary concepts as adaptive radiation, convergence, extinction, homology, phylogenetic taxonomy, and tree thinking. Emphasis will be placed on the origins of the modern vertebrate fauna and how fossils are being integrated with developmental biology to better understand major transitions in the vertebrate body plan.


        Bever lab student publishes first paper!

        William Foster from Bever lab has published his first paper! Based on part of his master's thesis, Foster et al describe the cranial anatomy of the Chinese tyrannosaurid dinosaur Qianzhousaurus sinensis. Check out the full article here: "The cranial anatomy of the...

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        Dr. Bever Promoted to Associate Professor

        News from Functional Anatomy & Evolution Read our latest announcements about department updates, honors and publications.  Gabriel Bever was promoted to Associate Professor of Functional Anatomy and Evolution, effective February 1, 2021. A full-time faculty...

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