Collin VanBuren off to Cambridge
Congrats to Collin VanBuren for successfully defending his MSc thesis, which he handed in last week. Collin’s thesis was entitled “The Function and Evolution of the Syncervical in Ceratopsian Dinosaurs with a Review of Cervical Fusion in Tetrapods” (see abstract below). This work should result in three papers, two of which we are working on now.
ABSTRACT– Mobility of the vertebral column is important in the ecology of tetrapods, especially in the cervical series, which directly connects the head to the rest of the body. Thus, fusion within the cervical series has ecological and behavioural implications. The evolution of fused anterior cervical vertebrae has occurred over 20 times in ecologically disparate groups of amniotes, suggesting an adaptive function for the ‘syncervical.’ in the varied ecological contexts under which it has evolved. The syncervical occurs relatively frequently in fossorial mammals, ricochetal rodents, and open-water pelagic swimmers (whales, ichtyhosaurs, plesiosaurs); it also occurs in hornbills, porcupines, and some extinct archosaurs. The syncervical of neoceratopsian dinosaurs has been hypothesized to support their large heads or act as a buttress during intraspecific combat. Tests of correlated character evolution on a ceratopsian phylogeny falsify these hypotheses, as the syncervical evolves before relatively large heads and cranial weaponry. The syncervical evolved at small body size ceratopsians, and robust hypotheses regarding functional significance should be consistent with its origin at small head and body sizes. Extant analogs provide a framework for understanding the evolution of this structure in Ceratopsia.
Collin has received a prestigious Gates International Scholarship to attend Cambridge University in the UK for his PhD. You can find out more about his PhD project in his New Scholar Profile posted online.