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Palaeophysiology: metabolism and metabolic evolution of ammonites and belemnites

Project Description

An animal’s metabolic rate (the sum total of chemical activity powering life) is one of the most powerful predictors of ecological performance, co-varying with life history traits such as growth rate, fecundity, activity levels and, in ectotherms, environmental thermal tolerance. An entire field of study, macro-physiology has developed exploring how comparative metabolic rates and metabolic responses among animals explain their coexistence, their environmental niches, and their responses to climatic change.
This entire field of physiological ecology is largely missing from deep time biology as we lack proxy measurements of metabolic rate that can be performed in fossils.
This project builds on recent work showing that the carbon isotope composition of fish otoliths can be used as a direct proxy of metabolic rate1,2. In this project the student will extend the methodology to carbonate-producing cephalopods and provide the first systematic, proxy based explorations of the metabolic ecology of ammonites and belemnites.
You will address key question such as testing whether different body forms correspond to differing metabolic rates, exploring temperature sensitivity of metabolic rates through periods of long term warming and cooling, and in response to mass extinction events, and will test whether metabolic rates of cephalopods changed systematically over Mesozoic time.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibility and how to apply


1. Chung, M-T et al. 2019. Field metabolic rates of teleost fishes are recorded in otolith carbonate. Communications Biology 2:24
2. Trueman, CT et al. 2016. Ecogeochemistry potential in deep time biodiversity illustrated using a modern deep-water case study. Phil Trans. Roy. Soc B. 371: issue 1691:
3. Sessa JA et al 2015. Ammonite habitat revealed via isotopic composition and comparisons with co-occurring benthic and pelagic organisms. PNAS 112 15562-15567

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

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