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Vertebrate Paleo Biology


Research in the section of Vertebrate Paleontology studies the paleobiology and relationships of dinosaurs based on laboratory and field studies. 

Using fossil records and 3D geometric morphometrics, we are able to study dinosaurs, but we study extant species to further our understanding of the anatomy and physiology of extinct species. 

Field studies we conducted in China’s Gansu Province resulted in the description of new dinosaurs, and lab work seeks to better understand, among other things, the locomotor apparatus of dinosaurs and issues of neck mobility in long-necked sauropods. 

What is this?

Penn Vet paleobiologists Dr. Peter Dodson and post-doctoral fellow Brandon Hedrick scanned this dinosaur skull of Psittacosaurus lujiatunesis, a small horned dinosaur from northeastern China. This scan uses 3D geometric morphometrics, showing that skull shape is largely related to the way skulls were crushed after they were buried by rock.

 

Field Studies

Dr. Peter Dodson, archeological dig

Dr. Peter Dodson and post-doctoral fellow Brandon Hedrick's research in China’s Gansu Province resulted in the description of new dinosaurs.

  • Dr. Peter Dodson's Laboratory
    • Our laboratory studies the paleobiology and relationships of dinosaurs based on laboratory and field studies.
    • We conducted field studies in northwestern China (Gansu Province) that resulted in the description of new dinosaurs (Auroraceratops, Yongjinglong).
    • We use 3D geometric morphometrics to explore intraspecific variation in plant-eating dinosaurs (Psittacosaurus), and the relationships among related basal horned dinosaurs.
    • We explore the musculoskeletal anatomy of living Reptilia (alligators, monitor lizards) and birds (emu, heron, etc.) to understand the locomotor apparatus of dinosaurs.
    • We use osteohistology to age dinosaur skeletons. We dissect the necks of straight-necked flyers (swans) and folded-neck flyers (great blue herons) to understand issues of neck mobility in the necks of long-necked sauropods.
    • Student projects include the study of preservational biases in dinosaurs of the western United States, the relationship between keratinous claw and bony ungual in birds and reptiles, and the relationship between pelvic morphology and locomotor habit in birds.
    • Learn more about Dr. Dodson...