Skip to content Skip to navigation

PhD: Form, function and macroevolution in dinosaurs

Project Title

Form, function and macroevolution in dinosaurs


University of Liverpool

Supervisors and Institutions

Dr Karl Bates (Department of Musculoskeletal Biology, University of Liverpool), Dr Susannah Maidment (Department of Earth Sciences, The Natural History Museum London), Dr Nathan Jeffery (Department of Musculoskeletal Biology, University of Liverpool)

Funding Status

Funding is in competition with other projects and students

Project Description

Project Summary
Dinosaurs dominated terrestrial ecosystems throughout the Mesozoic, and radiated into a diverse array of body shapes and sizes. They are therefore a model system for understanding the interactions between anatomy, function and ecology through time. However, there is currently a significant void between anatomical studies of dinosaurs and macroevolutionary analyses, and consequently the functional and ecomorphological pressures behind their evolutionary radiations are poorly understood. We will address this issue by quantitively reconstructing muscle evolution across dinosaur evolutionary history, and using sophisticated biomechanical modelling to assess the implications of muscle evolution on biomechanical performance and ecological adaption.

To achieve this goal the student will generate a large database of osteological and soft tissue measurements from living archosaurs using a combination of dissection and medical image data. The student will then build upon an existing data base of 3D models of dinosaurs by digitizing key specimens from UK and overseas museums. Quantitative soft tissue reconstructions of these fossils will be mapped on to a phylogenetic tree and used to examine patterns of soft tissue evolution, and particularly correlations with major functional and ecological transitions in dinosaurs. Finally, muscle reconstructions will be input into new biomechanical models of dinosaur taxa to examine how muscle evolution affects mechanical performance and adaptation, providing new insights into major ecological transitions, such as the evolution of herbivory and quadrupedalism.

The ideal student would have a background in zoology/palaeontology and skills in quantitative, mechanical and/or 3D digital techniques, and/or phylogenetic comparative methods, but training will be provided in all techniques. The supervisory team includes experts in vertebrate anatomy, palaeontology, biomechanics, imaging and computer simulation. The student will be based with Dr Bates in the Evolutionary Morphology & Biomechanics Group at Liverpool (, but will spend time with Dr Maidment at The Natural History Museum.

Interested students are strongly encouraged to contact the lead supervisor ( in advance of the application deadline. Applications should include a CV, letter of application and the contact details of 2 referees and should be sent by email to: The deadline for receipt of applications is 9th January 2019.

Funding Notes
Competitive funding of tuition fee, research costs and stipend (£14,777 tax-free, 2018-19) from the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership “Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment” (ACCE, View Website ). ACCE – a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, and York – is the only dedicated ecology/evolution/conservation Doctoral Training Partnership in the UK. Eligibility for funding varies according to nationality and/or number of years residence in the UK.

Contact Name

Karl Bates

Contact Email

Closing Date

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Expiry Date

Thursday, January 10, 2019
PalAss Go! URL: | Twitter: Share on Twitter | Facebook: Share on Facebook | Google+: Share on Google+