Using field- and lab-work, we compare trait development, morphology, and function among species to better understand what dictates the evolutionary paths and limits of animals.

methods include: histology, micro-CT, auditory brainstem recordings, genetics,
and phylogenetic comparative methods


Evolutionary development

We ask how changes in early development affect the evolvability of traits at the macroevolutionary scale. Events in early development not only matter for an individual’s life, but also for a species’ evolutionary trajectory.



We aim to understand how phylogenetic relationships, developmental bias, integration, and selection pressures result in the uneven patterns of trait evolution among species. The Womack Lab aims to resolve how and why some traits evolve rapidly and often among closely-related species, while other traits remain highly conserved over millions of years among many species.

sensory ecology

We ask how animal sensory systems have evolved and what functional differences exist among animals. We then examine how these functional differences affect an animal’s ability to navigate their environment, including prey capture, predator avoidance, and mate attraction.