I am a postdoctoral researcher funded by the Natural History Museum. I am currently working with Anjali Goswami at the Natural History Museum in London (UK).
My research project entails research questions concerning evolutionary biology, principally focused on a functional morphological study of the skeleton. To do so I employ different types of 3D geometric morphometric and comparative approaches. I explore the influence of body mass on the shape of bones and I investigate the interrelationships among the shape of each element in the context of locomotion with a special focus on grasping behaviours. In all my analyses I take into account the phylogenetic history of the species under study to better understand the effect of shared ancestry in explaining the observed ecomorphological patterns. In the context of the current postdoc, I want to incorporate an explicit ethological approach allowing me to quantify 1) behaviour, 2) anatomy and 3) function in an explicit evolutionary context using a tetrapod model system (frogs, lizards, mammals).
My research is at the interface of these approaches:
My research is at the interface of these approaches:
Examples of some research projects that I was PI on:
- THE INFLUENCE OF GRASPING ABILITY ON FORELIMB LONG BONE SHAPE IN PROSIMIANS
The grasping hand is one of the key morphological hallmarks of human evolution. Our understanding of the human grasping hand is largely built on our interpretation of the specialized lemur grasping hand (e.g., the presence of nails instead of claws on most primate species and skeletal evidence for the presence of manipulative capabilities in early primates utilizing the fine branch milieu). Yet, a holistic approach including the whole forelimb and its behavioral context in grasping and manipulation is currently missing. The scientific benefit of this project is that it will be the first study that will link grasping and manipulation ability related to the shape of the forelimb in a broad phylogenetic context in lemurs. The data obtained will greatly extend our understanding of the evolution of forelimb morphology in primates in relation to grasping and manipulation behavior. This quantitative and novel approach will then allow us to infer the grasping behavior of fossil species in a quantitative and objective way, thus opening up exciting new avenues of research into our understanding of primate evolution focusing initially on lemurs.
Puzzle box trial with Cheirogaleus medius. Puzzle boxe was designed by Hugues Clamouze (Photo credit: David Haring)
Mobile food trial with Julio, an Eulemur mongoz . Pendulum was designed by David Brewer (Photo credit: David Haring)
- THE INFLUENCE OF LOCOMOTION AND RANGE OF MOTION ON FORELIMB LONG BONE SHAPE IN PROSIMIANS
The animal locomotion laboratory at Duke University is equipped with synchronized high-speed video cameras and force platforms allowing me to quantify the loading regimes of the forelimb under different locomotor conditions (on horizontal or inclined flat runways and poles) and of animals with different morphologies. Such data on single limb force during locomotion is unique and will enhance our understanding of the loading regime of the forelimb. I have selected a subset of species with different ecologies (arboreal vs. terrestrial), morphology and locomotor styles. Three to five individuals per species are recorded. This will allow me to quantify peak forces experienced by the forelimb under different locomotor conditions which we will then correlate with behavioral and morphological data. Data are already available for several species in the animal locomotion laboratory and thus I am focusing on species and behaviors not sampled previously, yet using the same methods in the lab of Daniel Schmitt. Three-dimensional force profiles are recorded and peak forces are extracted and used in comparative analyses. I will analysed the data in a comparative phylogenetic framework to understand the co-evolution of morphology, behavior, and loading regime in prosimians. Finally, I will integrate data on fossil prosimians into the extant data set to see wether our approach allows us to assign locomotor behaviors to extinct taxa.
- CONVERGENCE IN FUNCTIONAL PROPERTIES OF FORELIMB IN ANIMALS WITH SIMILAR ECOLOGIES (ARBOREAL AND TERRESTRIAL)
Dissections will be performed using specimens housed in the collections of comparative anatomy at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) which are under the responsibility of Marc Herbin, one of the members of the FUNEVOL host team. I will obtain quantitative data from each specimen by dissecting each muscle from the forelimb for each specimen and weighing it. Next, muscles will be transferred to a 30% nitric acid solution and left overnight. This dissolves the connective tissue and allows individual fibers to be separated. Next fibers will be drawn or photographed using a binocular scope (with camera lucida) and the mean fibre length will be calculated. Based on the mass and fiber lengths the physiological cross sectional area of the muscle will be calculated by dividing muscle volume by average fiber length. To do so I will use a muscle density of 1.06 g/cm3 representative of vertebrate muscle. For muscles that show a distinct pennation I will correct for the pennation angle of the muscle (by multiplying the fiber length by the cosine of the pennation angle). These data will provide us with an estimate of the force generating capacity of each muscle.
These data will allow us to test for convergence in functional properties of forelimb muscles in animals with similar ecologies (arboreal, terrestrial) or similar hunting strategies. Finally, these data will be used to quantitatively correlate musculature and bone shape using PLS-type approaches.
Part of my research was conducted at the Duke Lemur Center, funded by the Fyssen Foundation and a Marie-Skłodowska Curie fellowship: