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PhD: The evolutionary origin of teeth

Project Title

The evolutionary origin of teeth


University of Bristol

Supervisors and Institutions

Professor Philip Donoghue (University of Bristol), Dr Zerina Johanson (The Natural History Museum), Dr Humberto Ferron (University of Bristol), Dr Gareth Fraser (University of Florida), Professor Davide Pisani (University of Bristol), Professor Emily Rayfield (University of Bristol)

Funding Status

Funding is in competition with other projects and students

Project Description

Teeth constitute at once a key innovation that underpinned the evolutionary and ecological diversification of jawed vertebrates – and a model system for understanding the general principles of organ development – so why do we know so little of their evolutionary origin? The earliest jawed vertebrates already bore a toothy grin and so we must look to their jawless relatives for the answer. A number of lineages of extinct jawless vertebrates possessed toothlike structures but almost nothing is known of their composition, development and function. Living jawless vertebrates also possess poorly mineralised toothlets but nothing is known of their developmental genetics. This project will elucidate the evolutionary origin of teeth through synchrotron and computed tomography of living and fossil jawless vertebrate teeth and tooth-like structures, computed fluid dynamic and finite element analysis of their function, and comparative transcriptomics of the teeth of living jawed and jawless relatives.

Project Aims and Methods
This project aims to elucidate the evolutionary origin of teeth in two different but entirely complementary ways: (i) through analysis of the structure, development and function of toothlike structures in fossil jawless vertebrates, and (ii) comparative analysis of gene expression in the teeth of living jawless and jawed vertebrates. Combining both approaches will provide not only an integrative insight into the evolutionary origin of teeth, but will also serve as a fantastic means of obtaining an interdisciplinary training at the interface of the Earth and Life Sciences. Nevertheless, we would still be delighted to hear form candidates who might prefer to focus on just the palaeobiological or transcriptomic dimensions of the proposed project.

Contact Name

Philip Donoghue

Contact Email

Link to More Information

Closing Date

Monday, January 6, 2020

Expiry Date

Friday, January 31, 2020
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