Martin Rücklin

Martin Rücklin

I am a palaeobiologist interested in the evolution and development of life. Hypotheses from biological sciences propose that the evolution of life is driven towards increasing complexity by key innovations. As a model for this I study the origin and evolution of jaws and teeth and the dermal skeleton. Using mainly non-invasive X-ray microscopy I reconstruct the histology of tissue types and growth of structures.


Palaeobiology, evolution and development, vertebrates, X-ray computed tomography, jaws and teeth, dermal skeleton, Placoderms, Devonian


The evolution of jaws and teeth.


Contrary to traditional hypotheses I demonstrated that the first teeth evolved in placoderms, the sister group to all living jawed vertebrates. In my current research on the evolution of jaws and teeth, supported by a Vidi grant from NWO, I test hypotheses on the evolution of tooth replacement in jawed vertebrates, especially in osteichthyans. In my team we investigate the evolution of complexity using dental complexity as a model, we investigate the evolution of modularity of vertebrate jaws and the evolution of dental gene-regulation using computational models.

Martin Ruecklin Dunkleosteus terelli
Reconstruction of the development of teeth in the jaw of Compagopiscis.

Current topics

Projects me and my team are working on currently.


Evolution of tooth replacement in jawed vertebrates

Our understanding of the evolution of teeth and their replacement is traditionally based on the most basal living jawed vertebrates, the chondrichthyans. This approach ignores the hundreds of millions of years of evolution along the stem of chondrichthyans…
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Evolution and development of dental complexity

In evolutionary and developmental biology, an increasing complexity of morphology of organs, tissue types and genomes during evolutionary time is postulated. In dental morphology and development the main focus has been on mammals, which have been studied…
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Early vertebrate morphology and evolution

Since my master’s project and PhD at Tübingen University I work on early vertebrates and in particular placoderms. Early vertebrates constitute a perfect model to test hypotheses from palaeobiogeography, phylogeny and evolutionary biology. In Palaeozoic…
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  • Couzens A. M. C., Sears, K. E. & Rücklin, M. 2021. Developmental influence on evolutionary rates and the origin of placental mammal tooth complexity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 118 (23) e2019294118.

  • Rücklin, M., King, B., Cunningham, J.A., Johanson, Z., Marone & F., Donoghue, P.C.J. 2021. Acanthodian dental development and the origin of gnathostome dentitions. Nature Ecology & Evolution 5, 919-926.

  • Doeland, M., Couzens, AMC., Donoghue PCJ. & Rücklin, M. 2019. Tooth replacement in early sarcopterygians. R. Soc. open sci. 6: 191173.

  • Donoghue, P. C. J. & Rücklin, M. 2016. The ins and outs of the evolutionary origin of teeth. Evolution & Development 18:1, 19-30.

  • Giles, S., Rücklin, M. & Donoghue, P.C.J. 2013. Histology of the placoderm dermal skeleton: implications for the nature of the ancestral gnathostome. Journal of Morphology 274: 627-644.

  • Rücklin, M., Donoghue, P.C.J., Johanson, Z., Trinajstic, K., Marone, F. & Stampanoni, M. 2012. Development of teeth and jaws in the earliest jawed vertebrates. Nature 491: 748-751.

  • Rücklin, M., Giles, S., Janvier, P. & Donoghue, P.C.J. 2011. Teeth before jaws? Comparative analysis of the structure and development of the external and internal scales in the extinct jawless vertebrate Loganellia scotica. Evolution & Development 13: 523-532.

All publications on GoogleScholar



    Melina Jobbins - Zurich University - Main supervior: Prof. Christian Klug; Co-supervisor: Martin Rücklin

    Wenjing Yi - Leiden University - Main supervisor: Prof. Michael Richardson; Co-supervisor: Martin Rücklin

    We welcome new PhD students or postdoctoral researchers in my team. Get in contact to discuss possibilities.

    Experiment at the synchrotron in Switzerland

    Former lab members and
    PhD students

    • Dr Benedict King - former postdoctoral researcher in Vidi project 'jaws and teeth' working on the assembly of the vertebrate dentition and jaws - now postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig - Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution 
    • Dr Aidan Couzens - former postdoctoral researcher in Vidi project 'jaws and teeth' working on the evolution of dental complexity - now postdoc at the University of California, Los Angeles - Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    • Dr Sebastien Enault - former postdoctoral researcher - now Kraniata - skeletal preparation
    • Dr Linda Frey - PhD May 2019 at University of Zürich- co-supervisor M. Rücklin
    • Floortje Mossou - former research assistant


    • Biodiversity - Leiden University, 1st year BSc - 2020
    • Palaeobiology - Leiden University, MSc course - 2018-present, since 2020 as coordinator
    • Honours class 'Crisis in Biology' now 'Evolution of Earth and Life' - Leiden University - 2018-present
    • Evolution and development course – Leiden University, MSc – 2017-present
    • Evolutionary biology - Leiden University, 2nd year BSc - 2017-present
    • Zoology and developmental biology, Vertebrate evolution and vertebrate skeleton – Leiden University, BSc – 2013-present
    • Methods in Biodiversity - Leiden University, MSc - 2016-2017
    • Tomography and 3D visualization of (palaeo)biological tissues – Naturalis – 2015 - present
    • Vertebrate Evolution and Palaeobiology – University of Bristol – 2011-2012
    • 3D imaging techniques – University of Bristol – 2009-2011
    • Frontiers in Earth Sciences – University of Bristol – 2009
    • Access to Bristol – University of Bristol – 2009-2011

    Me and my team supervise BSc and MSc internships. Get in contact to discuss possibilities.