Winners are nominated by faculty at large and selected by a committee composed of past award recipients. The committee makes selections based on the candidate’s ability to inspire students, instill in them a passion for science, and effectively communicate complex ideas.
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).
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.
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.
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!!!
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. “...
Back in November, echidna specialist extraordinare Sophie Regnault published the first installment of an NSF funded project on mammal forelimb evolution:
Regnault and Pierce (2018). Pectoral girdle and forelimb musculoskeletal function in the echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus): insights into mammalian locomotor evolution. Royal Society Open Science, https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.181400
The work was highlighted in the Harvard Gazette:...