Paul M. Gignac Instructor
PhD, Florida State University, 2010
BA, University of Connecticut, 2004
See Paul in the news: here and here
Dr. Gignac is an evolutionary biomechanist and vertebrate paleontologist. His focus is on how highly integrated phenotypes, which must work together to execute their function, are capable of evolutionary changes without compromising that function. To address this longstanding issue, he studies the musculoskeletal and dental function of the diverse feeding systems of reptiles in developmental and evolutionary contexts.
Crocodilians are the largest reptilian predators alive today with some undergoing up to a 5000-fold increase in body mass during their development. In addition, many taxa can generate thousands of pounds of bite force as adults, far eclipsing the known capacities of other living predators. How they accomplish this anatomically is not well understood. Dr. Gignac’s research addresses the musculoskeletal biomechanics of force generation, jaw kinematics, and muscle physiology among crocodilians through anatomical dissection, mathematical modeling, comparative methods, and histochemical techniques to better understand how these systems change during feeding niche shifts and at cladogenic events. He pairs these data with studies of crocodilian dental anatomy using geometric morphometrics and finite element analyses to understand how the major anatomical modules of the vertebrate feeding system (cranial skeleton, jaw musculature, and dentition) interact to facilitate prey capture and subjugation. Understanding how these components function in living systems, Dr. Gignac then turns to the fossil record with living crocodilians as a model system to address the paleobiology and feeding biomechanics of their fossil relatives as well as their evolutionary cousins, non-avian theropod dinosaurs.
Peer Reviewed Publications
Prieto-Marquez, A., P. M. Gignac, and S. Joshi. 2007. “Neontological evaluation of pelvic skeletal attributes purported to reflect sex in extinct non-avian archosaurs.” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 27(3):603-609.
Gignac, P.M., P.J. Makovicky, G. M. Erickson, and R. P. Walsh. 2010. “A description of Deinonychus antirrhopus bite marks and estimates of bite force using tooth indentation simulations.” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 30(4):1169-1177.
Pfaller, J. B., N. D. Herrera, P. M. Gignac, and G. M. Erickson. 2010. “Ontogenetic scaling of cranial morphology and bite-force generation in the loggerhead musk turtle.” Journal of Zoology, 280:280-289.
Pfaller, J. B., P. M. Gignac, and G. M. Erickson. 2011. “Ontogenetic changes in jaw-muscle architecture facilitate durophagy in the turtle Sternotherus minor.” Journal of Experimental Biology 214:1655-1667.
Erickson, G. M., P. M. Gignac, S. A. Steppan, A. K. Lappin, B. D. Inouye, K. A. Vliet, J. A. Brueggen, G. J. W. Webb. 2012. Comparative bite forces and tooth pressures of crocodilians: insights into the feeding biomechanics and evolutionary ecology of the most successful predatory reptiles. PLoS ONE 7, e31781.
Erickson, G. M. and P .M. Gignac. 2010. “Bite forces for Toyotamaphymeia inferred from the biomechanics of living crocodilians.” In Kobayashi, Y. (ed.) A Giant Japanese Crocodile, Machikanewan, University of Osaka Press. Pp. 78-79.
Outreach and Press
See Paul discuss his research on crocs on Science on Tap here and here. Read about it from the Center for Communicating Science here.
Link here for the New York Times article on Paul's recent research.