Zachary is fascinated by the role development plays in the evolution of novel characteristics. He searches for mechanisms underlying evolution by integrating studies of the developmental genetics of extant organisms with studies of anatomical evolution in extinct and extant organism. His dissertation research uses this combined approach to study the evolution of crocodylian skull development. This project uses geometric morphometrics, computed tomography, and multiple developmental genetic techniques in a comparative phylogenetic framework to better understand what changes in the developmental programming have occurred during pseudosuchian (crocodylians and their close extinct relatives) evolution and how these are functionally related to the evolution of snout and palate shape.
Bhullar, B.-A. S., Z. S. Morris, E. M. Sefton, A. Tok, M. Tokita, B. Namkoong, J. Camacho, D. A. Burnham, and A. Abzhanov. 2015. A molecular mechanism for the origin of a key evolutionary innovation, the bird beak and palate, revealed by an integrative approach to major transitions in vertebrate history. Evolution 69:1665–1677.
Burroughs, R., Z. S. Morris, and A. Marsh. 2014. Trachemys scripta (Red-Eared Slider), Pseudemys texana (Texas River Cooter), Chelydra serpentina (Snapping Turtle), Feeding Behavior and Scavenging. Herpetological Review 45(2):321-322.
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