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PhD Opportunities


Current PhD projects in Palaeontology

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2 projects found


Biodiversity, adaptive radiation and global cooling – the evolution of sand dollars

Institution: Oxford, University of

Supervisor(s): Roger Benson

Contact: Roger Benson (roger.benson@earth.ox.ac.uk)

Funding: Funding not guaranteed for this project, but is available in competition with other projects and students

Patterns of morphological evolution, species diversification/extinction, and climate change have generally been estimated from data on living taxa, or observed from fossil data. However, a better approach would combine fossil and living data to fully understand the evolutionary history of a group, and the nature of adaptive radiation in general. Diverse modern clades of invertebrates, such as echinoids (sea urchins) are well suited to these kinds of analyses because they often have rich fossil records.
In this project, a phylogeny of the Cenozoic radiation of sand dollars, including fossil taxa, will be constructed using morphological data. This will be used to analyse patterns of lineage diversification through time, using models that account for varying preservation of rock and facies that drive the availability of fossils to address the following questions:

(1) How does variation in the rock depositional record influence hypotheses of the evolution of biodiversity?

(2) What is the pattern of species diversification during the major evolutionary radiation of sand dollars?

(3) How did Cenozoic global cooling affect pattern of echinoid biodiversity?

Project uploaded on 16 Dec 2013, entry expires on 16 Dec 2014


The early evolution of marine turtles based on exceptional British fossils

Institution: Oxford, University of

Supervisor(s): Roger Benson

Contact: Roger Benson (roger.benson@earth.ox.ac.uk)

Funding: Funding not guaranteed for this project, but is available in competition with other projects and students

Sea turtles first appeared in the Early Cretaceous (~110 million years ago), at a time when marine reptiles were abundant in Earth’s oceans. Since then, substantial physical changes have influenced the biosphere, encompassing the extinction of other marine reptile groups with Mesozoic origins. The antiquity of turtles, and their status as a secondarily aquatic tetrapod lineage, suggests that understanding their diversity and evolution should yield insight into adaptation to marine life in tetrapods. Their survival in extant faunas provides soft tissue and other data not available for the majority of ancient marine reptile groups.
The project focuses on understanding the anatomy and diversity of marine turtles from two exceptional British fossil faunas – the Eocene London Clay and the Early Cretaceous Cambridge Greensand. The student will acquire CT scan data of fossil specimens, especially cranial material, and produce digital renderings of the anatomy, especially that relevant to taxonomy and sensory systems and functional anatomy. The data will be used to analyse chelonioid phylogeny and evolution, including data from both extant and extinct species.

Project uploaded on 16 Dec 2013, entry expires on 16 Dec 2014


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