Past Projects

Can semicircular canal shape predict ecology?

The semicircular canals, found in the inner ear of all jawed vertebrates, are a significant functional component of the sense of balance, providing sensory feedback when the head is rotated. The morphology of these canals has been shown to have strong ties with the lifestyle and locomotion of mammals, particularly locomotory specialists such as the quick and agile gibbon or the slow and deliberate sloth. Understanding how the morphology of these canals evolves in living species enables us to infer locomotory and ecological characteristics of fossil species. To date, however, this system...

Read more about Can semicircular canal shape predict ecology?

Exploring digit reduction in fossil horses

Modern horses (family Equidae) are represented by just one large-bodied and single-toed genus, yet their earliest ancestors were dog-sized animals with three or four toes on each foot. Reducing the number of toes, or digit reduction, can be found in lineages as distantly related as theropod dinosaurs and hopping desert rodents. But why? Through their evolutionary history, different species of horses can be found far-flung in geography, living in habitats from open grassland to forested hills, increasing or decreasing in body size, grazing or browsing, reducing digits or not reducing...

Read more about Exploring digit reduction in fossil horses

How the avian neck got its twist

Modern birds have extremely flexible necks that they use for a variety of behaviors, including feeding and preening. How did this flexible neck evolve? What joint motions are used to achieve complicated neck poses? How does the musculoskeletal system work to stabilize the neck without sacrificing flexibility?  We are exploring neck form and function in a broad range of extant and extinct avian and non-avian dinosaurs using a combination of traditional comparative methods and modern 3D techniques. Specifically, we are using X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology (...

Read more about How the avian neck got its twist