PEMC Imaging Matters: 8 December

Artwork by Yang Hongyu and Zheng Qiuyang showing living and fossil vertebrates

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Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC) is hosting a series of free, research-focused seminars.

These monthly Imaging Matters events will show how different forms of microscopy can be used across a broad range of research. Each month an invited speaker will come and give a talk specific to their area of research and how they’ve utilised microscopy to achieve their goal. This will include optical microscopy, electron microscopy, x-ray microscopy, atomic force microscopy, ion beam microscopy and in some cases utilising multiple techniques.

We warmly invite researchers, academics and students to join us for one or more of these events, not only to learn more about their field but also to broaden their knowledge about other fields and how the same techniques can be used in across multiple research areas. These talks will not only be informative but also cutting edge, with speakers showcasing their recent advances. Each presentation will be followed by questions, where the audience can get involved.

Our Imaging Matters event on Wednesday 8 December 2021 will be on Getting Inside the Head of Early Jawed Vertebrate Evolution, presented by Dr Sam Giles from the University of Birmingham. Sam will be talking about her research utilising computational tomography (CT) to better understand early vertebrate evolution.

Dr Sam Giles is a vertebrate palaeontologist with an interest in the anatomy, relationships, and macroevolution of Palaeozoic and Mesozoic fossil fishes. Her research uses x-ray imaging (CT scanning) to unlock the external and internal anatomy of living and fossil vertebrates. She is interested in the origins and evolutionary success of different bony vertebrate groups and the evolution of key features in the vertebrate body plan. Her work has led to major revisions in our understanding of origins of gnathostomes, osteichthyans, and teleosts, some of the most species-rich vertebrate clades.

One of the major transitions in vertebrate history was the evolution of jawed vertebrates from their jawless ancestors. Jawed vertebrates account for over 99% of living vertebrates and comprise two groups, cartilaginous fishes and bony fishes, so named for their skeletons. In contrast, living jawless fishes comprise just the parasitic hagfish and the scavenging lamprey, totalling around 100 species. In addition to their eponymous jaws and teeth, jawed fishes possess a number of anatomical innovations such as paired appendages, bony tissues, and three semicircular canals in the inner ear. 'Placoderms', the closest fossil relatives of living jawed vertebrates, occupy a critical place in understanding the origins of jawed vertebrates but the anatomy and relationships of placoderms, and even whether they represent a natural group, remains contentious.

Recent work employing micro-computed tomography (CT scanning) of both newly-discovered and long-known fossils has revealed previously unknown structures in the braincase, a bony ‘box’ that sits inside the skull and houses the brain, and in the bony labyrinth, which acts as an organ of balance, including features seen in both fossil jawless fishes and living jawed fishes. CT-based studies have also identified unexpected instances of extensive dermal and endochondral bone in the earliest jawed fishes. This implies radical revisions to accepted hypotheses of skeletal tissue evolution, turning on its head the idea that chondrichthyans (sharks, rays and skates) represent a 'primitive' vertebrate radiation. Fundamentally, current hypotheses of relationships for 'placoderms' are far from stable and likely inaccurate, with major repercussions for the pattern of evolution at the origin of jaws.


  • 12:00 – Welcome and introduction to Dr Sam Giles
  • 12:05 – Getting Inside the Head of Early Jawed Vertebrate Evolution
  • 12:40 – Questions
  • 12:55 – Closing and introduction to next month’s speaker

Event series

  • 13 October 2021: Introduction to Microscopy and Imaging Matters event series
  • 10 November 2021: Professor Gail McConnell, University of Strathclyde – 2D and 3D Optical Mesoscopy with the Mesolens
  • 8 December 2021: Dr Sam Giles, University of Birmingham – Getting Inside the Head of Early Jawed Vertebrate Evolution
  • 12 January 2022: Dr Stuart Robertson, Loughborough University – FIB & pFIB
  • 9 February 2022: Dr Fabio Nudelman, University of Edinburgh – Coccolithophore Biomineralisation
  • 9 March 2022: TBC
  • 13 April 2022: Professor Shadreck Chirikure, University of Oxford – Archaeological science and globalisation
  • 11 May 2022: TBC
  • 8 June 2022: TBC
  • 13 July 2022: TBC
  • 10 August 2022: TBC

Join us

Target audience

The sessions are primarily aimed at researchers, academics, and students with no restrictions on attendance.


Events are free to attend but booking is essential via the link at the top of each event page.

Contact either Dan Haspel or Alex Strachan for further information.

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