Researchers at UCD


John Finarelli

Assistant Professor

School of Biology & Environmental Science
Science Centre - West
University College Dublin
Dublin 4

Tel: + 353 (0)1 716 2347


2012 - Present, University College Dublin
    Assistant Professor of Vertebrate Biology, School of Biology and Environmental Science

2010 - 2012, University of Chicago
     Research Assistant Professor, Department of Organismal Biology & Anatomy

2007 - 2010, University of Michigan
     Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
     Research Scientist, Museum of Paleontology
     Fellow, Michigan Society of Fellows

2007 PhD, University of Chicago, Evolutionary Biology
2004 MS, University of Chicago, Evolutionary Biology
2001 MS, University of New Hampshire, Earth Sciences
1995 BA, College of William and Mary, Anthropology

Short Biography

I am a quantitative palaeobiologist by training. My research focuses on integrating palaeontological and neontological data sets in an effort to understand the biology and ecology of extinct organisms. I combine specimen-based research in museum collections (both palaeontological and zoological) with database mining and fieldwork to test macroevolutionary hypotheses of the origin and maintenance of morphological diversity through time and across clades.



Honours and Awards

Year: 2008.
Title: Best Dissertation in the Biological Sciences Division
Year: 2005.
Title: Graduate Teaching Award


Employer: University College Dublin
Position: Assistant Professor of Vertebrate Biology, School of Biology and Environmental Science
Employer: University of Chicago
Position: Research Assistant Professor, Department of Organismal Biology & Anatomy
Employer: University of Michigan
Position: Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Geological Sciences; Fellow, University of Michigan Society of Fellows


Year 2007 Institution: University of Chicago, IL
Qualification: PhD Subject: Evolutionary Biology
Year 2004 Institution: University of Chicago, IL
Qualification: MS Subject: Evolutionary Biology
Year 2001 Institution:
Qualification: MS Subject: University of New Hampshire, NH, USA Earth Sciences:Geology
Year 1995 Institution: College of William & Mary, VA, USA
Qualification: BA Subject: Anthropology



Book Chapters

Flynn, JJ; Finarelli, JA; Spaulding, M (2010) 'Phylogeny of the Carnivora and Carnivoramorpha, and the use of the fossil record to enhance understanding of evolutionary transformations' In: Goswami, A and Friscia, AR (eds). Carnivoran Evolution: New Views on Phylogeny, Form, and Function. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. , pp.25-63 [Details]

Peer Reviewed Journals

Hughes, GM; Boston, EM; Finarelli, JA; Murphy, WJ; Higgins, DG; Teeling, EC (2018) 'The birth and death of olfaction: The role of olfactory receptor evolution in mammalian niche specialization'. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 35 (6):1390-1406. [DOI] [Details]
Coates, MI; Finarelli, JA; Sansom, IJ; Andreev, PS; Criswell, KE; Tietjen, K; Rivers ML; LaRiviere, PJ (2018) 'An early chondrichthyan and the evolutionary assembly of a shark body plan'. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 285 :1870. [DOI] [Details]
Gargan, LM; Morato, T; Pham, CK; Finarelli, JA; Carlsson, JEL; Carlsson, J (2017) 'Development of a sensitive detection method to survey pelagic biodiversity using eDNA and quantitative PCR: a case study of devil ray at seamounts'. Marine Biology, 164 (5):112-112. [DOI] [Details]
Fernandes, D; Sirak, K; Novak, M; Finarelli, JA; Byrne, J; Connolly, E; Carlsson, JEL; Ferretti, E; Pinhasi, R; Carlsson, J (2017) 'The identification of a 1916 Irish rebel: New approach for estimating relatedness from low coverage homozygous genomes'. Scientific Reports, 7 :41529. [DOI] Link to full text [Details]
Coates, MI; Gess, RW; Finarelli, JA; Criswell, KE; Tietjen, K (2017) 'A symmoriiform chondrichthyan braincase and the origin of chimaeroid fishes'. Nature, 541 (7636):208-211. [DOI] [Details]
Cheronet, O; Finarelli, JA; Pinhasi, R (2016) 'Morphological change in cranial shape following the transition to agriculture across western Eurasia'. Scientific Reports, 6 :33316. [DOI] Link to full text [Details]
Goswami, A; Finarelli, JA (2016) 'EMMLi: A maximum likelihood approach to the analysis of modularity'. Evolution; international journal of organic evolution, 70 (7):1622-1637. [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA; Liow, LH (2016) 'Diversification histories for North American and Eurasian carnivorans'. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 118 (1):26-38. [DOI] [Details]
Vartia, S; Villanueva-Cañas, JL; Finarelli, JA; Farrell, ED; Collins, PC; Hughes, GM; Carlsson, JEL; Gauthier, DT; McGinnity, P; Cross, TF; FitzGerald, RD; Mirimin, L; Crispie, F; Cotter, PD; Carlsson, J (2016) 'A novel method of microsatellite genotyping-by-sequencing using individual combinatorial barcoding'. Royal Society Open Science, 3 :150565. [DOI] Link to full text [Details]
Gustavson, MS;Collins, PC; Finarelli, JA; Egan, D; Conchúir, RÓ; Wightman, GD; King, JJ; Gauthier, DT; Whelan, K; Carlsson, JE; Carlsson, J (2015) 'An eDNA assay for Irish Petromyzon marinus and Salmo trutta and field validation in running water'. Journal of Fish Biology, . [DOI] [Details]
Badgley, C; Smilely, TM; Finarelli, JA (2014) 'Great Basin mammal diversity in relation to landscape history'. Journal of Mammalogy, 95 (6):1090-1106. [DOI] [Details]
Raj Pant, S; Goswami, A; Finarelli, JA (2014) 'Complex body size trends in the evolution of sloths (Xenarthra: Pilosa)'. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 14 :184. Available Online [DOI] Link to full text [Details]
Finarelli, JA; Coates, MI (2014) 'Chondrenchelys problematica (Traquair, 1888) redescribed: a Lower Carboniferous, eel-like holocephalan from Scotland'. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 105 (1):35-59. [DOI] [Details]
Xu, G-H; Gao, K-Q; Finarelli, JA (2014) 'A revision of the Middle Triassic scanilepiform fish Fukangichthys longidorsalis from Xinjiang, China, with comments on the phylogeny of the Actinopteri'. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 34 (4):747-759. [DOI] [Details]
Liow, LH; Finarelli, JA (2014) 'A dynamic global equilibrium in carnivoran diversification over 20 million years'. Proceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences, 281 :20132312. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA; Goswami, A (2013) 'Potential pitfalls of reconstructing deep time evolutionary history with only extant data, a case study using the Canidae (Mammalia, Carnivora)'. Evolution, 67 (12):3678-3685. [DOI] [Details]
Badgley, C; Finarelli, JA (2013) 'Diversity dynamics of mammals in relation to tectonic and climatic history: Comparison of three Neogene records from North America'. Paleobiology, 39 (3):373-399. [DOI] [Details]
Davis, SP; Finarelli, JA;Coates, MI (2012) 'Acanthodes reveals shark-like conditions in last common ancestor of modern jawed vertebrates'. Nature, 486 (7402):247-250. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA; Coates, MI (2012) 'First tooth-set outside the jaws in a vertebrate'. Proceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences, 279 (1729):775-779. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA (2011) 'Estimating endocranial volume from the outside of the skull in Artiodactyla'. Journal of Mammalogy, 92 (1):200-212. [DOI] [Details]
Rowe, RJ; Finarelli, JA; Rickart, EA (2010) 'Range dynamics of small mammals along an elevational gradient over an 80 year interval'. Global Change Biology, 16 (11):2930-2943. [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA; Badgley, C (2010) 'Diversity dynamics of Miocene mammals in relation to the history of tectonism and climate'. Proceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences, 277 (1694):2721-2726. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA (2010) 'Does encephalization correlate with life history or metabolic rate in Carnivora?'. Biology Letters, 6 (3):354-358. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Jablonski, D; Finarelli, JA (2009) 'Congruence of morphologically-defined genera with molecular phylogenies'. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 106 (20):8262-8266. [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA; Goswami, A (2009) 'The evolution of orbit orientation and encephalization in the Carnivora (Mammalia)'. Journal of Anatomy, 214 (5):671-678. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA; Flynn, JJ (2009) 'Brain size evolution and sociality in Carnivora'. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 106 (23):9345-9349. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Jablonski, D; Finarelli, JA (2009) 'Reply to Smith and O'Meara: The utility of morphogenera'. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 106 (36):E99-E100. [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA (2008) 'A total evidence phylogeny of the Arctoidea (Carnivora: Mammalia): relationships among basal taxa'. Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 15 (4):231-259. [DOI] [Details]
Sears, KE; Finarelli, JA; Flynn, JJ; Wyss, AR (2008) 'Estimating body mass in New World monkeys (Platyrrhini, Primates), with a consideration of the Miocene platyrrhine, Chilecebus carrascoensis'. American Museum Novitates, 3617 :1-29. Available Online [DOI] Link to full text [Details]
Finarelli, JA (2008) 'Hierarchy and the reconstruction of evolutionary trends: Evidence for constraints on the evolution of body size in terrestrial caniform carnivorans (Mammalia)'. Paleobiology, 34 (4):553-562. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA (2008) 'Testing hypotheses of the evolution of brain-body size scaling in the Canidae (Carnivora, Mammalia)'. Paleobiology, 34 (1):35-45. [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA; Flynn JJ (2007) 'The evolution of encephalization in caniform carnivorans'. Evolution, 61 (7):1758-1772. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA (2007) 'Mechanisms behind active trends in body size evolution in the Canidae (Carnivora: Mammalia)'. The American Naturalist, 170 (6):876-885. [DOI] [Details]
Clyde, WC; Hamzi, W; Finarelli, JA; Wing, SL; Schankler, D; Chew, A (2007) 'A basin-wide magnetostratigraphic framework for the Bighorn Basin, WY'. Geological Society Of America Bulletin, 119 (7):848-859. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Finarelli, JA; Flynn, JJ (2006) 'Ancestral state reconstruction of body size in the Caniformia (Carnivora, Mammalia): The effects of incorporating data from the fossil record'. Systematic Biology, 55 (2):301-313. [Details]
Finarelli, JA (2006) 'Estimation of endocranial volume through the use of external skull measures in the Carnivora (Mammalia)'. Journal of Mammalogy, 87 (5):1027-1036. [Details]
Flynn, JJ; Finarelli, JA; Zehr, SM; Hsu, J; Nedbal, MA (2005) 'Molecular phylogeny of the Carnivora (Mammalia): Assessing the impact of increased sampling on resolving enigmatic relationships'. Systematic Biology, 54 (2):317-337. [Details]
Clyde, WC; Finarelli, JA,; Christensen, KE (2005) 'Evaluating the relationship between paleosol maturity and faunal composition in fossil vertebrate collections from the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming'. Palaios, 20 (4):390-399. [Details]
Finarelli, JA; Clyde, WC (2004) 'Reassessing hominoid phylogeny: Evaluating congruence in the morphologic and temporal data'. Paleobiology, 30 (4):614-651. [Details]
van Zuilen, MA; Lepland, A; Teranes, J; Finarelli, JA; Wahlen, M; Arrhenius, G (2003) 'Graphite and associating carbonates in early Archean Isua supracrustal rocks, southern West Greenland'. Precambrian Research, 126 (3-4):331-348. [Details]
Finarelli, JA; Clyde, WC; (2002) 'Comparing the Gap Excess Ratio and the Retention Index of the Stratigraphic Character'. Systematic Biology, 51 (1):166-176. [Details]

Electronic Publication

Cheronet, O; Finarelli, JA (2016) WaverR: An R package for data estimation using weighted averages of multiple regressions. (R package) Version 1.0. Electronic Publication [Details]
Goswami, A; Lucas, T; Sivasubramaniam, P; Finarelli, JA (2016) EMMLi: A Maximum Likelihood Approach to the Analysis of Modularity (R Package) Version 0.1. Electronic Publication [Details]


Research Interests

To date, I have primarily worked with the mammalian order Carnivora, looking at trends in the evolution of their body and brain size. I continue to pursue research in the Carnivora. However, I also maintain active interests in many other mammalian taxa, including rodents, artiodactyls, and primates. In addition, I am interested in the origin of jawed vertebrates, specifically with respect to the early diversification of body plans in living and extinct groups. I currently work with several Palaeozoic groups, including chondrichthyans (sharks and their relatives), placoderms and acanthodians (two extinct grades of jawed fish).

My subject interests in evolutionary biology are varied and cover a wide range: from total evidence phylogenetics, comparative anatomy and description, to biometry, morphometrics, and macroecology/macroevolutionary processes. These interests are united under a broad theme of developing quantitative techniques to try to understand evolutionary processes.

I am currently working on several projects in the Carnivora, including a large-scale total evidence phylogeny and a project looking to reconstruct rates of evolution through time and across phylogeny.

In addition, I have several ongoing efforts in early gnathostome evolution, with the goal of better understanding the ancestral conditions for the last common ancestors to all living jawed vertebrates. The scope of this research spans morphological description, to phylogenetic analysis, to application of comparative methods, to morphometrics. An important project in this area uses the fossil record as a natural experiment to test hypotheses concerning the evolutionary and developmental pathways responsible for the make-up of the vertebrate visceral skeleton.

Finally, I have several follow-up projects concerning my previous work on diversity dynamics in the rodent fossil record of the western USA, linking patterns of origination and extinction to region-level records of tectonism and climate change.




External Collaborators

Dr. John J. Flynn, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, USA [page]
Dr. Michelle Spaulding
, Purdue University North Central, Westville, IN, USA [page]

Dr. Anjali Goswami
, University College London, London, UK [page]

Dr. Michael I. Coates
, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA [page]
Katharine Criswell, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA [page]

Dr. Catherine E. Badgley
, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA [page]
Tara Smiley, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Dr. Lee Hsiang Liow, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway [page]