Quantifying patterns of lizard dental complexity

Faculty Name:
Randall Irmis

Geology and Geophysics

Faculty College:
Mines & Earth Sciences


Project Description:

We will investigate how the shape and complexity of the teeth from living lizards changes through ontogeny (from babies to adults). Working primarily with high-resolution replicas of lizard teeth made by my Ph.D. student Keegan Melstrom, we seek to understand if changes in tooth shape are related to changes in diet. This work has the potential to be used to reconstruct the diet of fossil lizards, crocodile relatives, and other extinct animals.

Opportunity Type:

Volunteer; Prepare a UROP proposal; Write an Honors Thesis

Student Role:

1) Cast ~100 lizard jaws; 2) create 3D models of teeth; 3) analyze dental complexity; 4) learn scientific writing; 5) present research results at scientific conference(s).

Student Benefits:

Learn molding and casting procedure, interact with 3D modeling and CT analysis programs, work at the Natural History Museum of Utah, and learn scientific communication skills.

Project Duration:

4–10 hours per week. This project is expected to continue for a full academic year.

Minimum Requirements:

Backgrounds/major in biology, geology, and/or computer science are encouraged. Successful candidates are curious, independent, self-motivated, and have an attention to detail.