Project U3: Morphofunctional Cranial Evolution
|Title||The evolution of skull shape and function in Sauropodomorpha: insights from finite elements structure synthesis and landmark analysis|
|Principal Investigator||Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Witzel, Dr. Oliver Rauhut|
Sauropods were specialised herbivores and their herbivory differed greatly from that of other groups of megaherbivores in that, apparently, no oral processing was involved. Although this special form of herbivory might have been a key aspect of sauropod success in the Mesozoic, little is still known about its origin and evolution.
Thus, in this project, the evolution of sauropodomorph skulls will be investigated using an integrated biomechanical, morphometric and morphological approach within a phylogenetic framework. Biomechanical analysis will be based on a new approach of synthesizing skulls on the basis of the forces acting on the different structures, using 3D Finite-Element Structure Synthesis (FESS). This method will be used for several reference taxa to improve our understanding of the functional design of sauropodomorph skulls. Changes in shape and anatomy of sauropodomorph skulls will be studied using both qualitative examination of skull anatomy and quantitative techniques, such as shape analysis, to quantify changes.
In combination with the results of the biomechanical analysis, these studies will result in a much better understanding of structural changes during sauropodomorph skull evolution and the functional and mechanical factors that might have guided it.