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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Salamanders strut their stuff

May 27, 2020

Happy that this paper is out! Exhaustive EMG study documents forelimb, hindlimb, and epaxial muscle activity during walking in the fire salamander, Salamandra salamandra. The data for this paper were collected by Stephanie while she was at the RVC and the project was funded by the  Natural Environment Research Council, UK.

Pierce, S. E., Lamas, L. P., Pelligand, L., Schilling, N., & Hutchinson, J. R. (2020)....

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Phil develops LAB3D

May 11, 2020

The unexpected shift to remote leaning this spring resulted in some serious ingenuity. Stephanie and Phil had to transition OEB 126 Vertebrate Evolution to an online format - but this had serious consequences for the hands-on specimen-based labs. Fear not! Phil jumped into action. Using skills honed as a Bok Center Learning Lab Graduate Fellow, Phil developed an interactive website to view and intract with 3D specimens in real time. The platform, called LAB3D, was an instant success with the students and allowed OEB 126 to achieve its learning objectives!

To learn more...

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Dinosaurs were aquatic!

April 29, 2020

Spinosaurus has a giant tail fin! And, it used it to swim! Long awaited paper published today in Nature describes new fossil material that shows the tail of the large-bodied theropod Spinosaurus was dorsoventrally expanded into a paddle-like appendage. Working in collaboration with Nizar Ibrahim - spinosaur extraordinaire - Stephanie and MCZ colleague George Lauder use biorobotics to show that the tail of Spinosaurus could produce forward thrust more similar to modern aquatic tetrapods (e.g. crocodiles and salamanders) than other dinosaurs....

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Dr. Blake Dickson :-)

April 22, 2020

There's a doctor in the house! So happy and proud to announce that Blake Dickson successfully (remotely) defended his PhD disseration! Blake learned and applied some serious quantitative methods in his thesis: CT scanning, 3D modeling, finite element analysis, pseudolandmark geometric morphometrics, evolutionary modeling, performance surfaces, and adaptive lanscapes. Phew!

Many thanks to the committee: Jim Hanken, George Lauder, and David Polly.


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Shoulder muscles abound!

March 15, 2020

Two great papers by Sophie Regnault and Phil Fahn-Lai on reptile/mammal shoulder muscle anatomy! This work was supported by NSF Bio.

First, Sophie presents her work detailing the shoulder musculoskeletal anatomy of the short-beaked echidna. Turns out, our little monotreme friend has very conservative muscle architectural properties, compared to both reptiles and therian mammals.

Regnault S, Fahn-Lai P, Norris R, Pierce SE. 2020....

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Backbone Functional Differentiation

February 3, 2020

New study explores the relationship between morphological and functional regionalization of the spine. Using experimental data collected by undergraduate student Sarah Gonzalez, this paper was able to predict when and how morphological regions of the synapsid backbone became functioanlly differentiated - turns out advanced cynodonts! Keen statistical skills and story telling by Katrina Jones made this paper a superstar!

See the write up by the Harvard Gazette:...

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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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