Project Description :
In the Dumont lab we study the morphological and biomechanical evolution of mammals through a variety of methods. One aspect of this research investigates the mammalian feeding system, specifically the lower jaws.
Mammals exhibit a wealth of shape diversity in their lower jaws, from the slender and elongated jaws of an anteater to the stout and robust jaws of a hyena. The mammal jaw can normally be broken down into two functional units (or modules) that can evolve independently – an anterior portion which houses the dentition, and a posterior portion which houses the muscle attachment sites. We are interested in how these two functional modules have evolved through time. In order to quantify differences in shape and modularity we use an analysis known as geometric morphometrics. These data will be useful in understanding a number of potential questions; how fast did mammal jaws evolve, how did the extinction of the dinosaurs effect mammalian feeding evolution, what is the range of morphological diversity in the jaw and how is this diversity distributed over the mammalian tree?
We are seeking a motivated student to aid us in gathering photographs and anatomical data from the UMass Natural History Collections. Completion of the evolution course (Bio280) is required, and any statistical experience is advantageous. The student will gain experience and training in museum-based collection study, specimen photography, statistical methods, and mammalian anatomy.