Dr Liz Harper


Director of Studies and Special Supervisor

College Jobs

  • Director of Studies, Natural Sciences: Physical (Parts IB, II & III Geology)
  • Special Supervisor, Geology

University Jobs

  • Affiliated Lecturer in Department of Earth Sciences


Telephone: 01223 33400

Email: emh21@cam.ac.uk

Research Interests

Research: Bivalve and Brachiopod Palaeobiology

Although the rise of bivalves is often promoted as a ‘classic textbook’ example of an adaptive radiation our understanding of it is in fact rather generalised. I use a range of palaeontological and zoological techniques to elucidate the intrinsic and extrinsic controls that have shaped these radiations. These findings should also illuminate evolutionary processes in other molluscan classes and also in non-molluscan taxa, notably the brachiopods.

My main research areas include:

Despite the abundance and familiarity of bivalves, the relationships between higher taxa are frequently poorly understood, thus hampering any analysis of their evolutionary biology. Using the enigmatic anomalodesmatans as a exemplar group I am working (along with PhD student André Sartori) to integrate morphological, molecular and fossil data to form a complete understanding of the group. In connection with this work I am part of the NSF-funded Assembling the Bivalve Tree of Life.

Molluscan microstructure and mineralogy has diversified over the course of the Phanerozoic. Together with Professor Antonio Checa (University of Granada) I work towards a better understanding of these structures, using a variety of microscopic and x-ray analyses, to characterize the microstructures from a crystallographic standpoint and to achieve a greater understanding of their genesis, evolution and functional significance.

Predation pressure is often cited as a key selection pressure in bivalve evolution and yet these hypotheses are seldom critically tested. My work examines the effectiveness of putative defensive adaptations in modern predator-prey systems and seeks to effectively document the appearance in the fossil record of both predator types and prey adaptations. This work centres chiefly on both bivalve and brachiopod prey.