• Austrian
    Fund (FWF)
  • - FWF P33820
    - FWF M2368
    - FWF P29796
    - FWF P26465
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    PhD School

    Evolution and extinction risks of sharks, rays, and skates

    (FWF-Project 33820)

    Primary Investigator: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kriwet


    • Univ.-Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kriwet (PI)
    • Julia Türtscher, MSc (PhD student)
    • Patrick L. Jambura, MSc (PhD student)


    • Prof. Dr. Gavin Naylor, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, USA
    • Dr. G. Marramà, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy

    Decision Board

    • June 30, 2020


    • September 1, 2020

    Expected End

    • August 31, 2024


    Wider research context/theoretical framework

    Sharks, rays, and skates (Elasmobranchii) and ratfishes (Holocephali) are the last extant members of chondrichthyans, being sister to all other living jawed vertebrates. This ancient lineage survived five mass extinctions and developed diverse morphological and biological traits allowing them to occupy a variety of different ecological niches as meso- or apex predators in aquatic food webs. Despite their evolutionary success, ca. 30% of all species are currently threatened by anthropogenically impacts. Extinction of only few species of this evolutionary distinctive clade can cause significant pruning of the tree of life with subsequent loss of millions of years of evolutionary history.

    Hypotheses/research questions/objectives

    The main goal is to disentangle the reasons underlying their success by examining the evolution of morphological and ecological traits. Questions addressed are: (1) What are the systematic positions and phylogenetic interrelationships of extinct taxa? (2) How do morphological traits and body shapes evolve through time? (3) What are the reasons for the many homoplastic characters in morphology-based phylogenies? (4) What is the timing and tempo of morphological trait and phenotypic evolution? (5) What are their future perspectives and which traits may increase their evolutionary fitness?


    A reliable and robust time-calibrated tree for extinct taxa within a phylogenetic framework of extant taxa will be built employing meta-analytical approaches, based on supermatrix approaches combining morphological and molecular data sets of fossil and extant taxa, within parsimony and Bayesian frameworks. This procedure (1) allows performing phylogenetic analyses and to analyse the nature of homoplastic character distribution, (2) provides tools for modelling complex origination, diversification and extinction dynamics, (3) enables to reconstruct macroevolutionary patterns through time, and (4) forms the scaffold for a revised EDGE analysis to determine vulnerable clades.

    Level of originality/innovation

    Originality and innovation of this project arise from the multidisciplinary approach combining morphology, molecular biology, palaeobiology, ecology, and conservation biology with a set of new statistical approaches. The combined approaches will profoundly inform about the evolution and success of elasmobranchs, and by including deep-time perspectives will allow identifying clades for which effective conservation priorities are necessary to maintain this unique evolutionary line of vertebrates.


    Scholarly papers

    In press
    • Amadori, M., Kovalchuk, O., Barkaszi, Z., Giusberti, L., Kindlimann, R. & Kriwet, J. in press. A diverse assemblage of †Ptychodus species (Elasmobranchii: Ptychodontidae) from the Upper Cretaceous of Ukraine, with comments on possible diversification drivers during the Cenomanian. Cretaceous Research.

    Online first
    • Marramà, G., Villalobos-Segura, E., Zorzin, R., Kriwet, J., Carnevale, G. 2023 (online first). The evolutionary origin of the durophagous pelagic stingray ecomorph. Palaeontology. Link to article
    • Amadori, M., Solonin, S.V., Vodorezov, A.V., Shell, R., Niedźwiedzki, R. & Kriwet, J. 2023 (online first). The extinct shark, Ptychodus (Elasmobranchii, Ptychodontidae) in the Upper Cretaceous of central-western Russia - The road to easternmost peri-Tethyan seas. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.Link to article
    • Begat, A., Kriwet, J., Gelfo, J.N., Soledad Gouiric-Cavalli, Schultz, J.A. & Martin, T. 2023 (online first). The first Southern Hemisphere occurrence of the extinct Cretaceous sclerorhynchoid sawfish Ptychotrygon (Chondrichthyes, Batoidea), with a review of Ptychotrygon taxonomy. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Link to article
    • Villafaña, J.A., M., Rivadeneira, M.M., Pimiento, C. & Kriwet, J. 2023 (online first). Diversification trajectories and paleobiogeography of Neogene chondrichthyans from Europe. Paleobiology. Link to article

    • Balàka, P.F., Ugarković, P., Türtscher, J., Kriwet, J., Niedermüller, S., Krstinić, P. & Jambura, P.L. 2023. Updated Checklist of Chondrichthyan Species in Croatia (Central Mediterranean Sea). In Porcu, C. & Bellodi, A. (eds.). Rays and Sharks: Biology, Ecology, Conservation and Distribution of Predators (Special Issue of Conservation Biology and Biodiversity), 12(7): 952 (33 pages). Link to article
    • López-Romero, F.A., Stumpf, S., Kamminga, P., Böhmer, C., Pradel, A., Brazeau, M.D. & Kriwet, J. 2023. Shark mandible evolution reveals patterns of trophic and habitat-mediated diversification. Communications Biology, 6, 496 (13 pp.). Link to article
    • Villalobos-Segura, E., Stumpf, S., Türtscher, J., Jambura, P.L., Begat, A., López-Romero, F.A., Fischer, J. & Kriwet, J.. 2023. A synoptic review of the cartilaginous fishes (Chondrichthyes: Holocephali, Elasmobranchii) from the Upper Jurassic Konservat-Lagerstätte of southern Germany: Taxonomy, diversity, and faunal relationships. Diversity, 15, 386 (70 pp.). Link to article
    • Jambura, P.L., Villalobos-Segura, E., Türtscher, J., Begat, A., Staggl, M.A., Stumpf, S., Kindlimann, R., Klug, S., Lacombat, F., Pohl, B., Maisey, J.G., Naylor, G.J.P. & Kriwet, J. 2023. Systematics and phylogenetic interrelationships of the enigmatic Late Jurassic shark Protospinax annectans Woodward, 1918 with comments on the shark-ray sister group relationship. Diversity, 15, 311 (43 pp.). Link to article

    • Ćetković, I., Jambura, P.L., Pešić, A., Ikica, Z. & Joksimović, A. 2022. Observations of juvenile sandbar sharks Carcharhinus plumbeus (Nardo, 1827) around the Bojana River delta (Southern Adriatic Sea). Mediterranean Marine Science, 23: 748-753. Link to article
    • Türtscher, J., Jambura, P.L., López-Romero, F.A., Kindlimann, R., Sato, K., Tomita, T. & Kriwet, J. 2022. Heterodonty and ontogenetic shift dynamics in the dentition of the tiger shark Galeocerdo cuvier (Chondrichthyes, Galeocerdidae). Journal of Anatomy, 241: 372-392. Link to article
    • Kim, S.L., Yeake, D., Balk, M.A., Eberle, J.J., Zeichner, S., Fieman, D. & Kriwet, J. 2022. Decoding the dynamics of dental distributions: insights from shark demography and dispersal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 289: 20220808. Link to article
    • Villalobos-Segura, E., Marramà, G., Carnevale, G., Claeson, K.E., Underwood, C.J., Naylor, G.J.P. & Kriwet, J. 2022. The Phylogeny of rays and skates (Chondrichthyes: Elasmobranchii) based on morphological characters revisited. Diversity, 14: 456 (65 pp). Link to article
    • Staggl, M., Abed-Navandi, D. & Kriwet, J. 2022. Cranial morphology of the orectolobiform shark, Chiloscyllium punctatum Müller & Henle, 1838. Vertebrate Zoology, 72, 2022: 311-370. Link to article
    • López-Romero, F.A., Fidji, B., Abed-Navandi, D. & Kriwet, J. 2022. Early shape divergence of developmental trajectories in the jaw of galeomorph sharks. Frontiers in Zoology, 9, 7 (11 pages). Link to article
    • Amadori, M., Kindlimann, R., Fornaciari, E., Giusberti, L. & Kriwet, J. 2022. A new cuspidate ptychodontid shark (Chondrichthyes; Elasmobranchii), from the Upper Cretaceous of Morocco with comments on tooth functionalities and replacement patterns. Journal of African Earth Sciences, 187, 104440 (25 pages). Link to article
    • Türtscher, J., López-Romero, F.A., Jambura, P.L., Kindlimann, R., Ward, D., Kriwet, J. 2021. Evolution, diversity and disparity of the tiger shark lineage Galeocerdo in deep time. Paleobiology, 47: 574-590. Link to article
    • Sternes, P.C. & Jambura, P.L. 2021. Sightings of a White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) with a significantly deformed pectoral fin off the coast of southern California. Bulletin, Southern California Academy of Sciences, 12: 59-63. Link to article
    • Jambura, P.L., Türtscher, J., De Maddalena, A., Giovos, I., Kriwet, J., Rizgalla, J. & Al Mabruk, S.A.A. 2021. Using citizen science to detect rare and endangered species: New records of the great white shark Carcharodon carcharias off the Libyan coast. Annals for Istrian and Mediterranean Studies, Series Historia Naturalis, 31: 51-60. Link to article
    • Jambura, P.L., Türtscher, J., Kriwet, J. & Al Mabruk, S.A.A. 2021. Deadly interaction between a swordfish Xiphias gladius and a bigeye thresher shark Alopias superciliosus. Ichthyological Research, 68: 317-321. Link to article
    • Jambura, P.L., Stumpf, S. & Kriwet, J. 2021. Skeletal remains of the oldest known pseudocoracid shark Pseudocorax kindlimanni sp. nov. (Chondrichthyes, Lamniformes) from the Upper Cretaceous of Lebanon. Cretaceous Research, 125: 104842 (13 pages). Link to article
    • Türtscher, J., López-Romero, F., Jambura, P.L., Kindlimann, R., Ward, D.J. & Kriwet, J., 2021. Data from: Evolution, diversity and disparity of the tiger shark lineage Galeocerdo in deep time. Dryad, Dataset. Link to article
    • Jambura, P.L., Ćetković, I., Kriwet, J. & Türtscher, J. 2021. Using historical and citizen science data to improve the knowledge about the occurrence of the elusive sandbar shark Carcharhinus plumbeus in the Adriatic Sea. Mediterranean Marine Science, 22: 169-179. Link to article