Michael I. Coates

Research Summary
My research focuses on early vertebrate diversity and evolution, the reconstruction of evolutionary pattern and process, and uses of fossils and systematic methods in evolutionary developmental biology. Ongoing projects cover the following areas: 1. The origin and early radiation of tetrapods, the origin of a tetrapod body plan, and the fin-to-limb evolutionary transition. 2. Primitive shark-like fishes and the early evolutionary radiation of jawed fishes (gnathostomes). 3. Ray-finned fish evolution: the ray-fins (actinopterygians) include the vast majority of living fishes Living tetrapods range from humans to salamanders, aardvarks to apodans, and all points in between. The origin of tetrapods is one of the classic topics of vertebrate evolutionary studies, and covers wide variety of different kinds of question: the reconstruction of evolutionary pattern and organismal interrelationships (phylogeny); the origin of new body plans (morphological transformation); functional and behavioral change associated with the invasion of new habitats –the water to land transition (paleobiology). Recent and ongoing research has concentrated mostly on reconstructions of phylogenetic pattern encompassing the fish-tetrapod transition and the basal divergence of modern lineages (amphibians and amniotes). Previous work in this area has included the description of Acanthostega gunnari (Coates 1996 - pdf), the most completely known primitively fish-like tetrapod. Current research explores ways of analyzing and ‘mining’ large data sets (Ruta et al. 2003 - pdf; 2006 - pdf; Wagner et al. 2006 - pdf), the relation between major branching events in the tree of life and large-scale anatomical change, and how phylogenetically inferred patterns inform questions about developmental evolution, and vice-versa. The fin-limb transition is a particularly rich source of material in this respect (Coates & Clack 1990 - pdf; Coates & Cohn 1998 - pdf; Coates et al 2002 - pdf; Shubin et al. 2004 - pdf). Primitive shark-like fishes (chondrichthyans) include the origins of modern sharks, rays and chimaeroids (rat fishes), early forms of which are much less well known than those of their bony relatives. The absence of a bony internal skeleton has resulted in a fossil record consisting mostly of isolated teeth and scales, although rare caches of spectacularly preserved skeletal remains are known. Modern sharks tend to be treated as primitive relics of an earlier era, although this sits uncomfortably with the alternative clichéd view of sharks as ultimate marine predators. Both notions rest on shaky foundations. Modern sharks are not especially similar to their early relatives, whose sometimes bizarre anatomy in certain respects converges on that of early bony fishes (osteichthys) (see example of Akmonistion; Coates et al. 1998 - pdf; Coates & Sequeira 2001 - pdf). The aim of the chondrichthyan project is to resolve early chondrichthyan phylogeny by means of using a wide variety of data, and to provide the basis for a renewed examination of basal jawed vertebrates as a whole. All early gnathostomes are possible targets for future work, including memberships of the extinct groups such as placoderms and acanthodians, as well as key gnathostome anatomical systems, including jaws, teeth, and paired fins (Smith & Coates; Coates Acta Biotheoretica). The ray-finned fishes are the largest and most diverse group of living vertebrates, but little has been agreed about the timing and pattern of their early evolution. Collaborative research with Prince and Ho labs, and colleagues elsewhere, has resulted in a revised time-scale of their evolutionary history and raised major questions about the completeness of their fossil record (Hurley et al 2007 - pdf; and the cover image). This work exemplifies OBA’s aim to promote integrative research, and uses a total-evidence approach combining fossils with molecular sequence data drawn from mitochondrial and nuclear genes. Fossil ray-finned fishes are probably the largest and least explored resource for the exploration of vertebrate historical biodiversity, and the potential for further research is considerable (Coates 1999 - pdf)
Education
  • University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, B.Sc. (Honors) Zoology 00/1982
  • University of Newcastle upon Tyne , UK, Ph.D. Vertebrate Paleontology 00/1988
Biosciences Graduate Program Association
Publications
  1. Frey L, Coates M, Ginter M, Hairapetian V, Rücklin M, Jerjen I, Klug C. The early elasmobranch Phoebodus: phylogenetic relationships, ecomorphology and a new time-scale for shark evolution. Proc Biol Sci. 2019 10 09; 286(1912):20191336. View in: PubMed

  2. Coates MI, Tietjen K, Olsen AM, Finarelli JA. High-performance suction feeding in an early elasmobranch. Sci Adv. 2019 09; 5(9):eaax2742. View in: PubMed

  3. Miyashita T, Coates MI, Farrar R, Larson P, Manning PL, Wogelius RA, Edwards NP, Anné J, Bergmann U, Palmer AR, Currie PJ. Hagfish from the Cretaceous Tethys Sea and a reconciliation of the morphological-molecular conflict in early vertebrate phylogeny. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 02 05; 116(6):2146-2151. View in: PubMed

  4. Coates MI, Finarelli JA, Sansom IJ, Andreev PS, Criswell KE, Tietjen K, Rivers ML, La Riviere PJ. An early chondrichthyan and the evolutionary assembly of a shark body plan. Proc Biol Sci. 2018 01 10; 285(1870). View in: PubMed

  5. Criswell KE, Coates MI, Gillis JA. Embryonic origin of the gnathostome vertebral skeleton. Proc Biol Sci. 2017 Nov 29; 284(1867). View in: PubMed

  6. Coates M. Palaeontology: Plenty of fish in the tree. Nature. 2017 09 13; 549(7671):167-169. View in: PubMed

  7. Criswell KE, Coates MI, Gillis JA. Embryonic development of the axial column in the little skate, Leucoraja erinacea. J Morphol. 2017 03; 278(3):300-320. View in: PubMed

  8. Coates MI, Gess RW, Finarelli JA, Criswell KE, Tietjen K. A symmoriiform chondrichthyan braincase and the origin of chimaeroid fishes. Nature. 2017 01 12; 541(7636):208-211. View in: PubMed

  9. Giles S, Coates MI, Garwood RJ, Brazeau MD, Atwood R, Johanson Z, Friedman M. Endoskeletal structure in Cheirolepis (Osteichthyes, Actinopterygii), An early ray-finned fish. Palaeontology. 2015 Sep; 58(5):849-870. View in: PubMed

  10. Andreev P, Coates MI, Karatajute-Talimaa V, Shelton RM, Cooper PR, Wang NZ, Sansom IJ. The systematics of the Mongolepidida (Chondrichthyes) and the Ordovician origins of the clade. PeerJ. 2016; 4:e1850. View in: PubMed

  11. Long JA, Burrow CJ, Ginter M, Maisey JG, Trinajstic KM, Coates MI, Young GC, Senden TJ. Correction: First Shark from the Late Devonian (Frasnian) Gogo Formation, Western Australia Sheds New Light on the Development of Tessellated Calcified Cartilage. PLoS One. 2015; 10(6):e0131502. View in: PubMed

  12. Long JA, Burrow CJ, Ginter M, Maisey JG, Trinajstic KM, Coates MI, Young GC, Senden TJ. First shark from the Late Devonian (Frasnian) Gogo Formation, Western Australia sheds new light on the development of tessellated calcified cartilage. PLoS One. 2015; 10(5):e0126066. View in: PubMed

  13. Xu GH, Zhao LJ, Coates MI. The oldest ionoscopiform from China sheds new light on the early evolution of halecomorph fishes. Biol Lett. 2014 May; 10(5):20140204. View in: PubMed

  14. Stewart TA, Smith WL, Coates MI. The origins of adipose fins: an analysis of homoplasy and the serial homology of vertebrate appendages. Proc Biol Sci. 2014 Apr 22; 281(1781):20133120. View in: PubMed

  15. Davis SP, Finarelli JA, Coates MI. Acanthodes and shark-like conditions in the last common ancestor of modern gnathostomes. Nature. 2012 Jun 13; 486(7402):247-50. View in: PubMed

  16. King HM, Shubin NH, Coates MI, Hale ME. Behavioral evidence for the evolution of walking and bounding before terrestriality in sarcopterygian fishes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Dec 27; 108(52):21146-51. View in: PubMed

  17. Finarelli JA, Coates MI. First tooth-set outside the jaws in a vertebrate. Proc Biol Sci. 2012 Feb 22; 279(1729):775-9. View in: PubMed

  18. Richardson MK, Minelli A, Coates M, Hanken J. Phylotypic stage theory. Trends Ecol Evol. 1998 Apr 01; 13(4):158. View in: PubMed

  19. Sallan LC, Coates MI. End-Devonian extinction and a bottleneck in the early evolution of modern jawed vertebrates. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jun 01; 107(22):10131-5. View in: PubMed

  20. Coates MI. Palaeontology: beyond the age of fishes. Nature. 2009 Mar 26; 458(7237):413-4. View in: PubMed

  21. Coates MI, Ruta M, Wagner PJ. Using patterns of fin and limb phylogeny to test developmental-evolutionary scenarios. Novartis Found Symp. 2007; 284:245-55; discussion 255-61. View in: PubMed

  22. Friedman M, Coates MI, Anderson P. First discovery of a primitive coelacanth fin fills a major gap in the evolution of lobed fins and limbs. Evol Dev. 2007 Jul-Aug; 9(4):329-37. View in: PubMed

  23. Hurley IA, Mueller RL, Dunn KA, Schmidt EJ, Friedman M, Ho RK, Prince VE, Yang Z, Thomas MG, Coates MI. A new time-scale for ray-finned fish evolution. Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Feb 22; 274(1609):489-98. View in: PubMed

  24. Gess RW, Coates MI, Rubidge BS. A lamprey from the Devonian period of South Africa. Nature. 2006 Oct 26; 443(7114):981-4. View in: PubMed

  25. Wagner PJ, Ruta M, Coates MI. Evolutionary patterns in early tetrapods. II. Differing constraints on available character space among clades. Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Sep 07; 273(1598):2113-8. View in: PubMed

  26. Ruta M, Wagner PJ, Coates MI. Evolutionary patterns in early tetrapods. I. Rapid initial diversification followed by decrease in rates of character change. Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Sep 07; 273(1598):2107-11. View in: PubMed

  27. Friedman M, Coates MI. A newly recognized fossil coelacanth highlights the early morphological diversification of the clade. Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Jan 22; 273(1583):245-50. View in: PubMed

  28. Richardson MK, Jeffery JE, Coates MI, Bininda-Emonds OR. Comparative methods in developmental biology. Zoology (Jena). 2001; 104(3-4):278-83. View in: PubMed

  29. Jeffery JE, Bininda-Emonds OR, Coates MI, Richardson MK. A new technique for identifying sequence heterochrony. Syst Biol. 2005 Apr; 54(2):230-40. View in: PubMed

  30. Shubin NH, Daeschler EB, Coates MI. The early evolution of the tetrapod humerus. Science. 2004 Apr 02; 304(5667):90-3. View in: PubMed

  31. Ruta M, Jeffery JE, Coates MI. A supertree of early tetrapods. Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Dec 07; 270(1532):2507-16. View in: PubMed

  32. Ruta M, Coates MI, Quicke DL. Early tetrapod relationships revisited. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 2003 May; 78(2):251-345. View in: PubMed

  33. Coates MI, Jeffery JE, Rut M. Fins to limbs: what the fossils say. Evol Dev. 2002 Sep-Oct; 4(5):390-401. View in: PubMed

  34. Jeffery JE, Bininda-Emonds OR, Coates MI, Richardson MK. Analyzing evolutionary patterns in amniote embryonic development. Evol Dev. 2002 Jul-Aug; 4(4):292-302. View in: PubMed

  35. Jeffery JE, Richardson MK, Coates MI, Bininda-Emonds OR. Analyzing developmental sequences within a phylogenetic framework. Syst Biol. 2002 Jun; 51(3):478-91. View in: PubMed

  36. Cohn MJ, Lovejoy CO, Wolpert L, Coates MI. Branching, segmentation and the metapterygial axis: pattern versus process in the vertebrate limb. Bioessays. 2002 May; 24(5):460-5. View in: PubMed

  37. Coates MI. Birds, trees, and stems. Evol Dev. 1999 Nov-Dec; 1(3):137. View in: PubMed

  38. Richardson MK, Minelli A, Coates MI. Some problems with typological thinking in evolution and development. Evol Dev. 1999 Jul-Aug; 1(1):5-7. View in: PubMed

  39. Raff RA, Arthur W, Carroll SB, Coates MI, Wray G. Chronicling the birth of a discipline. Evol Dev. 1999 Jul-Aug; 1(1):1-2. View in: PubMed

  40. Basden AM, Young GC, Coates MI, Ritchie A. The most primitive osteichthyan braincase? Nature. 2000 Jan 13; 403(6766):185-8. View in: PubMed

  41. Smith MM, Coates MI. Evolutionary origins of the vertebrate dentition: phylogenetic patterns and developmental evolution. Eur J Oral Sci. 1998 Jan; 106 Suppl 1:482-500. View in: PubMed

  42. Coates MI. Ancestors and homology (the origin of the tetrapod limb). Acta Biotheor. 1993 Dec; 41(4):411-24. View in: PubMed

  43. Coates MI. Limb evolution. Fish fins or tetrapod limbs--a simple twist of fate? Curr Biol. 1995 Aug 01; 5(8):844-8. View in: PubMed

  44. Coates MI. The origin of vertebrate limbs. Dev Suppl. 1994; 169-80. View in: PubMed

  45. Coates, M. I. The Devonian tetrapod Acanthostega gunnari Jarvik: postcranial anatomy, basal tetrapod interrelationships and patterns of skeletal evolution. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Earth Sciences. 1996; 87:363-422.::::

  46. Coates MI, Clack JA. Polydactyly and the earliest known tetrapod limbs. Nature. 1990; 347:66-69.::::