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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Knuckles is the best sonic character

December 10, 2018

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,

The work was highlighted in the Harvard Gazette:...

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Breaking up the mammal back

September 22, 2018

Massive congratulations to Katrina Jones for publishing her three year - big data - study on the evolution of mammalian backbone regionalization in Science!

Jones, K. E., K.D. Angielczyk, P.D. Polly, J.J. Head, V. Fernandez, J.K Lungmus, S. Tulga, and S.E. Pierce. “Fossils reveal the complex evolutionary history of the mammalian regionalized spine” Science 361, no. 6408 (2018): 1249-1252. 


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Niche overlap in extinct horses

August 28, 2018

Pierce lab alumna Abba Parker ('17) has published her amazing undergraduate senior thesis! Along with Brianna McHorse, Abba was able to quantitatively show that extinct horses of North America did not partition habitat based on trait state (e.g. body size, digit reduction, tooth crown height). Very proud of both Abba and Brianna on this great piece of research!

Parker, Abigail K., Brianna K. McHorse, and Stephanie E. Pierce. 2018. “...

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