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Computational analysis of the evolution of amphibian locomotor modes

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Hutchinson
    Dr C Richards
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Supervisors: Professor John Hutchinson, Dr Chris Richards

Department: Comparative Biomedical Sciences

How walking and running evolved in legged vertebrates (tetrapods) is one of the most fundamental and exciting unresolved questions in evolutionary biology, as these gaits are key adaptations that helped set the stage for the later diversification (and dominance) of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals among other species. We seek a talented student to work with us on a multidisciplinary project that combines our two teams’ research strands, to date having focused on how the earliest tetrapods moved on land and how the earliest frogs walked/hopped. This project will use sophisticated 3D computational simulations based on real fossil data from early tetrapods and amphibians to test how early the walking and running patterns observable in living frogs and salamanders first evolved. A series of fossils from lineages along the evolutionary tree of tetrapods leading to amphibians will be sampled, and existing experimental data from living frogs and salamanders will be applied to similar computational simulations to test and refine the methodology. This project will train the student in a broad skillset from engineering and computer science to biology and palaeontology, to solve major mysteries about the deep evolutionary history underlying the ways that frogs and salamanders move on land today.
The studentship will commence at the beginning of October 2016.

Interviews for studentships - will be held on 16th March or in the w/c 21st March 2016 at the RVC’s Camden or Hawkshead Campuses


Funding Notes

This is a three year fully funded studentship. It is open to Home/EU applicants only. International students are welcome to apply but must be able to pay the difference between UK/EU and international tuition fees.


Pierce, S.E., Hutchinson, J.R., Clack, J.A. 2013. Historical perspectives on the evolution of tetrapodomorph movement. Integrative and Comparative Biology 53: 209-223. doi: 10.1093/icb/ict022
Clack, J.A. 2012. Gaining Ground. Second edition. Indiana University Press
Anderson, Jason S., et al. 2008. A stem batrachian from the Early Permian of Texas and the origin of frogs and salamanders. Nature 453.7194: 515-518.

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