Supporting Anti-Racism

June 3, 2020

The Pierce Lab stands firmly with the Statement on Anti-Racism published by the Paleontological Society. The lab supports #BlackLivesMatter. We are committed to creating a more inclusive environment and to promoting diversity within the sciences and paleontology.

The Paleontological Society Statement on Anti-Racism

The Paleontological Society affirms that Black lives matter. Anti-Black violence—including the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, the...

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Rodent locomotor ecology

January 24, 2020

New paper out by former NSF Postdoctoral Fellow and Pierce Lab member Brandon Hedrick! By quanifying both external and internal humerus/femur shape in a large sample of rodents, we were able to show that poximal limb morphology is not correlated with rodent locomotor ecology. We propose that rodents were successful at spreading into diverse ecological niches due to high behavioral plasticity and small body sizes, allowing them to modify their locomotor...

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Evolution of complexity

November 7, 2019

Happy to share that our work on the evoluton of axial complexity in synapsids is out today in Nature Communications! Congratulations to Katrina Jones for spearheading this piece of research which shows that the complex morphology of the mammalian backbone evolved via stepwise evolution. Major 'leaps' in complexity appear to correlate with increases in aerobic capacity, first in cynodonts and then again in Northern placental mammals (Boreoeutheria).

The work was covered by the Harvard Gazette: ...

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Fin-to-limb networks

May 21, 2019

Stephanie and collaborators published a study that used anatomical network analysis (AnNA) to investigate the evolution of bony connections from fin-to-limb. The study demonstrated that as limbs evolved the bony connections became simpler (primarily due to the proximo-distal connections of digits) and more modular. Modularization is hypothesized to have allowed limbs to evolve a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and functions.

The research was...

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Turtles traversing an adaptive landscape

May 2, 2019

Blake Dickson's fabulous work on turtle humeri adpative landscapes is now out in Evolution! The research aimed to investiage whether or not the shape of humeri reflect functional trade-offs of living and moving in different environemnts. The answer: YES! Blake performed a truely integrative study that combined 3D shape analysis, with finite element modeling and adaptive landscapes. The work provides a significant advancement on building morpho-functional adaptive landscapes that is sure to stimulate lots of follow-on work.

Dickson, D.V., and S.E. Pierce. 2019....

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Dr. McHorse!!!

April 24, 2019

Super excited to announce that Brianna successfully defended her PhD dissertation today! She wowed the department with - yet another - amazing presention on her research which explored evolutionary digit reduction in horses. Congrats Dr. McHorse!!!

Brianna defense

Croc skulls evolved via developmental shifts

February 20, 2019

Proud to announce that Zach Morris has published the first chapter of his thesis research! Zach quantified skull shape development across all species of living crocodilians - from embryos to adults. He showed that by tinkering with their developmental strategies, crocodiles have been able to evolve all major ecomorph morphologies - from blunt and wide snouts to long and narrow. 

Morris, Z.S., K.A. Vliet, A. Abzhanov, and S.E. Pierce. 2019. “...

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