PhD, University of California, Berkeley, 2013
Like most reptiles, all 24 living species of crocodylians grow slowly and have low metabolic rates compared to mammals and birds. These characteristics are reflected in the microscopic structure of their bone tissues. Compared to living species, crocodylian ancestors were much more diverse in terms of their body size, anatomy, diet, and habitat. Their bone tissue indicates that they grew much faster and had higher metabolic rates; a very different physiology compared to their living descendants. This strongly suggests that crocodylians re-evolved slow growth and lower metabolic rates after going through some evolutionary experimentation with higher rates. By analyzing the bone tissue of museum specimens of modern crocodylians and especially their extinct ancestors, Dr. Werning seeks to determine when the transitions to and from higher rates occurred, and whether these changes in physiology were concurrent with changes in body size, anatomy, and ecology.
Undergraduates who are interested in assisting the Turner Lab with this project should contact Dr. Werning by email at email@example.com. We seek motivated students from all majors, especially those with an eye for detail and an interest in evolution.