Throughout Earth's history, life has taken a huge variety of forms; some simple, some complex. Despite this, there are still some morphologies for which we have no evidence for the existence of at any point in the history of life on Earth. The reason for this discontinuity in anatomical variation is an intensely-debated topic within the fields of evolutionary and developmental biology. Some suggest that the 'missing morphologies' are impossible, with realised body plans reflecting adaptive peaks in design. Others disagree, stating that the extinction of these missing forms is to blame, or that an insufficient amount of time has elapsed for all possible body plans to have evolved.
Using empirical and simulated datasets, we hope to shed light on the reasons behind this patchiness in the landscape of realised body plans, as well as discern temporal patterns in its evolution. Using these inferences, it will hopefully be possible to speak to the nature of the evolutionary process itself; specifically, whether the same processes shape macroevolution through deep time.