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Athletic Performance in Predatory Dinosaurs

   Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

About the Project

Dinosaurs are a fascinating group of vertebrates that achieved the largest body sizes for land animals. This large size required a number of adaptations in their locomotor systems, and these have been extensively studied using a variety of techniques ranging from traditional morphological analysis to cutting edge computer simulations using machine learning and forward dynamic simulation. The focus of these studies has almost always been on steady state locomotor performances such as walking and running at specific speeds. However, a functioning locomotor system needs to be able to start from a stationary position, accelerate to a desired velocity, progress at a constant velocity, change direction, and decelerate to a stop. All these activities are essential and performing them effectively is clearly an important aspect of any animal’s ecology. For predatory dinosaurs, prey capture is likely to be as much about how rapidly the animal can accelerate or turn as it is about the top speed the animal can attain, so evaluating these other aspects of performance will help us answer questions about the hunting activities of these animals. In modern carnivores we have many different food acquisition strategies such as sprint pursuit, long distance pursuit, ambush and scavenging, and it is likely that all these strategies were present among predatory dinosaurs. The goal of this PhD is therefore to find ways of linking hunting strategy to overall locomotor performance and then to assess selected predatory dinosaurs in this context. The principal approach that will be used is the computer simulation of dinosaur gait concentrating on velocity change performance (acceleration and deceleration in a straight line and cornering ability). The ideal candidate will have a strong interest in dinosaur biology and an enthusiasm to learn computational techniques. The research work will involve using computer aided design to reconstruct the key musculoskeletal elements of example dinosaurs that are likely to have different hunting abilities and then using simulation software to assess their locomotor performance across a range of metrics. There are also possibilities to get involved with fieldwork and specimen preparation as part of the wider training opportunities offered. Both supervisors are highly experienced in the techniques required and applicants from a wide range of backgrounds (geology, biology, engineering, computing) are encouraged.

To make an application please do so here - 

Then search and select PhD Earth Science (academic programme) and PhD Palaeontology (academic plan)

Funding Notes

This is a self funded project. Tuition fee for Home students £7,250 and for EU and International students £27,000.


• Sellers, William I, S B Pond, Charlotte A Brassey, and Philip L Manning. 2017. ‘Investigating the Running Abilities of Tyrannosaurus Rex Using Stress-Constrained Multibody Dynamic Analysis’. PeerJ 5 (January): e3420.
• Sellers, William Irvin, L Margetts, Rodolfo Aníbal Coria, and Phillip Lars Manning. 2013. ‘March of the Titans: The Locomotor Capabilities of Sauropod Dinosaurs’. PLoS ONE 8 (10): e78733.

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