Allison Daley

Departmental Lecturer in Animal Diversity

St Edmund Hall


Research Interests

The origins of macroscopic animals extend back into the Cambrian period, at least 540 million years ago, when all major animal groups evolved in a relatively rapid burst of evolution called the Cambrian Explosion. My research examines exceptionally preserved fossils from the Burgess Shale and other Cambrian deposits in the context of two broadly overlapping themes: ecdysozoan morphological innovations, and predation as an evolutionary process. This work combines traditional paleontological techniques with multivariate statistics, palaeoecological analyses, phylogenetics, functional morphology studies, comparative decay experiments, and the application of new imaging techniques. Part of my work examines enigmatic Cambrian fossils known as the anomalocaridids, which occupy a basal position in the stem lineage of the arthropods. Anomalocaridid global diversity and morphology are explored to better understand the evolution of key arthropod features, and ecological dynamics in the Cambrian are examined with reference to the interpretation of anomalocaridids as apex predators. I am interested in establishing a robust framework for the timing of major events in the early evolution of animals and examining issues related to the application of fossils as calibrations for molecular clock analyses. Current work also seeks to understand the evolution of exoskeleton moulting in ecdysozoans through the examination of a wide variety of fossils and by employing comparative decay and anatomical studies on modern arthropods.

Additional Information

Affiliations: Research Fellow at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and JRF at St. Edmund Hall.

Outreach: Science writer for the Burgess Shale Virtual Museum (, and involvement with numerous public outreach events at the OUMNH, the Natural History Museum (London) and Uppsala University (Sweden). Scientific editor and translator for Academic Board Games and Boehringer Ingelheim Svanova. You can hear more about my research in various blogs (Palaeocast and Oxford Sparks) and video (Ted Talk), at the links below.  

Teaching: I teach the first year invertebrate practical sessions for the course Organisms, and labs, lectures and tutorials on early animal evolution in the second year course Evolution.






Selected Publications

  • Van Roy, P., Daley, A.C. & Briggs, D.E.G. 2015. Anomalocaridid trunk limb homology revealed by a giant filter-feeder with paired flaps. Nature, advance online publication. 

  • Daley, A.C. and Edgecombe, G.D. 2014. Morphology of Anomalocaris canadensis from the Burgess Shale. Journal of Paleontology, 88, 68-91.

  • Vannier, J., Liu, J., Lerosey-Aubril, R., Vinther, J. and Daley, A.C. 2014. Sophisticated digestive systems in early arthropods. Nature Communications, 5, 3641.

  • Daley, A.C. , Budd, G.E. and Caron, J.-B. In Press. The morphology and systematics of the anomalocaridid Hurdia from the Burgess Shale, Middle Cambrian, Canada. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 11, 743-787.

  • Rota-Stabelli, O., Daley, A.C. and Pisani, D. 2013. Multiple timetrees reveal a Cambrian colonisation of land and a new scenario for ecdysozoan evolution. Current Biology, 23, 1-7.

  • Daley, A.C. , Paterson, J.R., Edgecombe, G.D., García-Bellido, D.C. and Jago, J.B. 2013. New anatomical information on Anomalocaris from the Emu Bay Shale konservat-lagerstätte (Cambrian; South Australia) and a reassessment of its inferred predatory habits. Palaeontology, 56, 971-990.

  • Budd, G.E. and Daley, A.C. 2012. The lobes and lobopods of Opabinia regalis (Burgess Shale, Cambrian Series 3, Stage 5). Lethaia, 45, 83-95.

  • Daley, A.C. , Budd, G.E., Caron, J.-B., Edgecombe, G.D. and Collins, D. 2009. The Burgess Shale anomalocaridid Hurdia and its significance for early euarthropod evolution. Science, 323,1597-1600.