Lawrence M. Witmer, PhD
Professor of Anatomy
Chang Professor of Paleontology

Dept. of Biomedical Sciences
Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
Life Science Building, Rm 123
Ohio University
Athens, Ohio 45701 USA

Phone: 740 593 9489
Fax: 740 593 2400
Email: witmerL@ohio.edu

 

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Research Statement WitmerLab at Ohio University explores the functional morphology of vertebrates. A major focus has been the soft tissues of the heads of dinosaurs, and so, vertebrate paleontology is an important activity. But, since fossils tend to preserve only bones and teeth, we also study modern-day animals. As a result, our projects are diverse, ranging from studies of the nasal apparatus of Diplodocus to the brain and ear of T. rex to the horns of rhinos to the airflow in alligator heads, and so on. We use traditional techniques, as well as the latest in high-tech imaging and 3D visualization. Anatomy is our stock-in-trade, because anatomical details record the evolution of adaptation. Their study provides a better understanding of the vertebrate head: how it works—from physiology to biomechanics—and how it evolves.
 
 

WitmerLab News!

Skeletal density evolution in Antarctic fishes.  An article appeared in the Journal of Morphology that explores the evolutionary divergence in skeletal density in Antarctic notothenioid fishes that lack swim bladders yet live in the water column. (2014-03-05)
• download the article on the Journal of Morphology website
• download the article on OU's site: Eastman, J. T., L. M. Witmer, R. C. Ridgely, and K. L. Kuhn. 2014. Divergence in skeletal mass and bone morphology in Antarctic notothenioid fishes. Journal of Morphology DOI 10.1002/jmor.20258.

Evolution of tooth loss and beaks in theropod dinosaurs.  An article appeared in PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) that explores the functional consequences of edentulism (tooth loss) and evolution of a rhamphotheca (a horny beak), focusing on the peculiar theropod dinosaur Erlikosaurus. (2013-12-03)
• download the open-access article on the PNAS website
• download the article on OU's site: Lautenschlager, S., L. M. Witmer, Perle A., and E. J. Rayfield. 2013. Edentulism, beaks, and biomechanical innovations in the evolution of theropod dinosaurs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110:20657–20662. doi:10.1073/pnas.1310711110.
Young Scholars OHIO. WitmerLab once again hosted a group of "profoundly gifted" students as part of the Young Scholars OHIO program. This year we had 11 students aged 10–14 from several different states and three countries. We put on a workshop on 1 Oct 2013 that allowed the kids to work with our >80 skull casts and to interact with WitmerLab members to learn about the science of dinosaurs and to assemble the "Field Guide to the Dinosaurs of the WitmerLab." Check out the photo album on our Facebook page. A good time was had by al!  (2013-10-04)
Science Cafι. Witmer and the whole WitmerLab team gave a successful Science Cafι to a packed house at the Front Room on the OU campus. The discussion surrounded how we go about "Fleshing Out Dinosaurs...in 3D!" The audience ranged from preschoolers to emeritus professors and were eager participants for onstage demonstrations. Check out the archived HD video on Livestream or the album on our Facebook page. (2013-10-04)
WitmerLab Circle of Life. We welcome three new students to the lab as we wish farewell to a departing lab member. Welcome to (1) OU Honors Tutorial College undergrad Elsa Heiner (top left), who is doing her thesis on the hyolingual apparatus of diapsids; (2) doctoral student Catherine Early (top right), who joins us from North Carolina State University; and (3) master's student Shayna Knece (bottom left), who is in OU's Patton College of Education and studying the delivery of primary scientific research to multiple grade levels. And farewell to Eric Snively (bottom right), who has been with us since 2010 and left us to start a tenure-track job at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. (2013-10-04)
The Visible Interactive Opossum. An open-access, freely downloadable resource for education and research. This website presents 3D PDFs and movies of the 3D anatomical structure of the entire body of a pouch young of a Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana). The site also provides downloads of the full ΅CT scan datasets for two individuals. (2013-07-01)
• Check out the WitmerLab Visible Interactive Opossum site
Feeding biomechanics in the marsupial saber-tooth Thalycosmilus and the placental saber-tooth Smilodon.  An article appeared in PLOS ONE that compares the mechanics of saber-toothed predation in a metatherian and placental, exploring the extent of convergent evolution. (2013-06-28)
• Wroe, S., C. Uphar, W. C. H. Parr, P. Clausen, R. C. Ridgely, and L. M. Witmer. 2103. Comparative biomechanical modeling of metatherian and placental saber-tooths: A different kind of bite for an extreme pouched predator. PLOS ONE 8(6): e66888. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066888

• Check out the photo album on the WitmerLab Facebook page

Brain size in tyrannosaurid dinosaurs.  An article appeared in the book Tyrannosaurid Paleobiology that presents a quantitative study of relative brain size in tyrannosaurs. (2013-06-28)

• Hurlburt, G. R., R. C. Ridgely, and L. M. Witmer. 2013. Relative size of brain and cerebrum in tyrannosaurid dinosaurs: an analysis using brain-endocast quantitative relationships in extant alligators. Pp. 134–154 In J. M. Parrish, R. E. Molnar, P. J. Currie, and E. B. Koppelhus (eds.) Tyrannosaurid Paleobiology. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Engineering approaches and the Visible Interactive Dinosaur project shed new light on dinosaur feeding styles.  An article appeared in Palaeontologia Electronica that explores the feeding biology of Allosaurus using soft-tissue reconstruction and multibody dynamics. (2013-05-21)
• Snively, E. D., J. Cotton, R. C. Ridgely, and L. M. Witmer. 2013. Multibody dynamics model of head and neck function in Allosaurus (Dinosauria, Theropoda). Palaeontologia Electronica 16.2.11A.
• Check out the YouTube video

• Check out the Project Page for more images, movies, PDFs downloads, and the news release.
Braincase, endocast, and inner ear of a titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur from Spain.  An article appeared in PLOS ONE that examines the structure of the braincase, brain endocast, and inner ear of the Late Cretaceous sauropod Ampelosaurus sp.. (2013-01-23)
• Knoll, F., R. C. Ridgely, F. Ortega, J. L. Sanz, and L. M. Witmer. 2013. Neurocranial osteology and neuroanatomy of a Late Cretaceous titanosaurian sauropod from Spain (Ampelosaurus sp.). PLOS ONE 8(1): e54991. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054991.
• Check out the YouTube video

• Check out Brian Switek's blog post

Brain structure in the therizinosauroid dinosaur Erlikosaurus. An article appeared in PLOS ONE that examines the structure of the brain and sensory systems in the therizinosauroid theropods. (2012-12-19)
• Lautenschlager, S., E. J. Rayfield, Perle A., L. E. Zanno, and L. M. Witmer. 2012. The endocranial anatomy of Therizinosauria and its implications for sensory and cognitive function. PLOS ONE 7(12): e52289. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052289.
• Check out the YouTube video
Feature article in Perspectives magazine. Ohio University's award-winning research magazine Perspectives ran a feature article entitled "Digital Dinosaurs" on Witmer and the latest research directions in WitmerLab (2012-11-29).

• Read the "Digital Dinosaurs" article in Perspectives written by Adam Liebendorfer (PDF) (Webpage)

• Read the whole Fall/Winter 2012 issue of Perspectives online or as a PDF.

The Visible Interactive Ostrich. An open-access, freely downloadable resource for education and research. This website presents 3D PDFs and movies of the 3D anatomical structure of the head and skull of the ostrich, Struthio camelus. (2012-10-01)

• Check out the WitmerLab Visible Interactive Ostrich site
The Visible Interactive Iguana. An open-access, freely downloadable resource for education and research. This website presents 3D PDFs and movies of the 3D anatomical structure of the head and skull of the green iguana, Iguana iguana. (2012-09-27)

• Check out the WitmerLab Visible Interactive Iguana site
 

The Visible Interactive Rhino. An open-access, freely downloadable resource for education and research. This website presents CT scan data, 3D PDFs, movies, and behind-the-scenes photo albums. This work derives from our efforts to help the veterinary treatment of rhinos injured in horn-poaching incidents in South Africa. (2012-09-20)
• Check out the WitmerLab Visible Interactive Rhino site
• Support the conservation effort of rhinos at the Kariega Game Reserve's site

Feeding biomechanics in the sauropod dinosaur Diplodocus. An article appeared in Naturwissenschaften that uses engineering approaches such as finite element analysis (FEA) to explore the feeding behavior of the Jurassic sauropod dinosaur Diplodocus. (2012-07-16)
• Young, M. T., E. J. Rayfield, , C. M. Holliday, L. M. Witmer, D. J. Button, P. Upchurch, and P. M. Barrett. 2012. Cranial biomechanics of Diplodocus (Dinosauria, Sauropoda): testing hypotheses of feeding behaviour in an extinct megaherbivore. Naturwissenschaften.99:637–643.

Welcome to Don Cerio who joins the lab as a new doctoral student. Don graduated from Cornell University in 2009, after which he was a research assistant in Kim Bostwick's lab at Cornell and later a research assistant at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Welcome, Don! Exciting times ahead! (2012-07-09)

Anatomy of the muscular system of dinosaurs. An article appeared in the 2nd edition of The Complete Dinosaur that discusses the anatomy and controversies surrounding the muscles of dinosaurs (2012-07-06)
• Dilkes, D. W., J. R. Hutchinson, C. M. Holliday, and L. M. Witmer. 2012. Reconstructing the musculature of dinosaurs. Pp. 150–190 In M. K. Brett-Surman, T. R. Holtz, and J. O. Farlow (eds.) The Complete Dinosaur, 2nd Edition. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
Joe Daniel officially became Joseph C. Daniel, PhD! He successfully defended, revised, and submitted his doctoral dissertation, entitled "Heads and Skulls as Sediment Sorters: An Actualistic, CT-Based Study in Taphonomy." He is now a Gross Anatomy Instructor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.Here is his email address. Well done, Joe! (2012-05-23)

WitmerLab doctoral students successfully leaped important hurdles!
• Ashley Morhardt passed her Written and Oral Comprehensive Exams
• Jason Bourke passed his Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Defense
(2012-05-03)

Braincase, endocast, and inner ear of a basal sauropod dinosaur. An article appeared in PLoS ONE that presents new data on the basal eusauropod dinosaur Spinophorosaurus from the Jurassic of Niger. (2012-01-17)
• Knoll, F., L. M. Witmer, F. Ortega, R. C. Ridgely, and D. Schwarz-Wings. 2012. The braincase of the basal sauropod dinosaur Spinophorosaurus and 3D reconstructions of the cranial endocast and inner ear. PLoS ONE 7(1): e30060. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030060. (8 MB PDF download includes an interactive 3D PDF)
• Check out the animation on YouTube

Congratulations to Eric Snively! Eric successfully defended his masters thesis entitled "Rigid Body Mechanics of Prey Capture in Large Carnivorous Dinosaurs." Yes, Eric Snively already had a PhD in Biology (2006), but now also has a masters degree in Engineering, working with the mechanical engineering and bioengineering groups here at Ohio University. (2011-11-18)
• Visit Eric's webpage
• Check out his master's thesis
Archaeopteryx skull 3D PDFs: a freely downloadable resource! We scanned some of the skull casts of Archaeopteryx that we have in our Collection on the OU΅CT and then made 3D PDFs to share with the community. These were released on the 150th anniversary of the naming of Archaeopteryx lithographica. (2011-09-30)
• Visit the Archaeopteryx 3D PDF website

• Read the blog post over at Pick and Scalpel for backstory and context

The brain and crazy-straw nose of an armored dinosaur. An article appeared in the Journal of Anatomy that presents new data on the anatomy of the nasal cavity, head vasculature, brain, and inner ear of Euoplocephalus. (2011-09-29)
• Miyashita, T., V. M. Arbour, L. M. Witmer, and P. J. Currie. 2011. The internal cranial morphology of an armoured dinosaur Euoplocephalus corroborated by X-ray computed tomographic reconstruction. Journal of Anatomy 219:661–675.

• Read the blog post over at Pick and Scalpel for backstory and context

Dave Dufeau officially became David L. Dufeau, PhD! He successfully defended, revised, and submitted his doctoral dissertation, entitled "The evolution of cranial pneumaticity in Archosauria: patterns of paratympanic sinus development." He is now a Lecturer in the Integrative Anatomy program at the University of Missouri. Here is his contact information: Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, University of Missouri, M172 Medical Sciences Building, One Hospital Drive, Columbia MO 65212, Phone: (573) 884-2361, web, email: dufeaud@missouri.edu. Congratulations, Dave!  (2011-08-19)

3D Interactive Human Anatomy. An open-access, freely downloadable educational resource was generated for medical students, other health-related students, or any other interested parties, providing labeled interactive movies and 3D PDFs of upper extremity and skull anatomy. (2011-08-06)
Archaeopteryx knocked off its perch as the oldest bird. A News & Views piece appeared in Nature to accompany the article by Xu et al. on a new fossil from China that suggests that Archaeopteryx is no longer an avialan but rather a basal deinonychosaur. The N & V piece discusses the significance of the finding for the origin and early evolution of birds and what it means for the iconic status of Archaeopteryx (2011-07-27)
• Witmer, L. M. 2011. An icon knocked from its perch. Nature 475:458–459.

• Read the blog post over at Pick and Scalpel that provides more context.

WitmerLab doctoral students successfully leaped important hurdles!
• William Porter passed his Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Defense
• Jason Bourke passed his Written and Oral Comprehensive Exams
(2011-05-16)

Juvenile Tarbosaurus shows shifting tyrannosaur lifestyles: A new article was published as the Feature Article in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology:
• Download a PDF of the published article
• Visit the Project Page

• Read the blog post over at Pick and Scalpel that provides back story and context
(2011-05-09)
Young Scholars OHIO: WitmerLab once again hosted a group of "profoundly gifted" students as part of the Young Scholars OHIO program. This year we had 15 students aged 6–11 from nine different states. We put on a workshop on 2 May 2011 that allowed the kids to work with our >70 skull casts and to interact with all 10 WitmerLab members to learn about the science of dinosaurs and to assemble the "Field Guide to the Dinosaurs of the WitmerLab." A good time was had by al!  (2011-05-03)

The Visible Interactive Alligator, an open-access, freely downloadable, collaborative resource for education and research from the WitmerLab at Ohio University and the Holliday Lab at the University of Missouri, launches.
• Check out the WitmerLab Visible Interactive Alligator site
• Check out the Holliday Lab 3D Alligator site
• Check out the blog post over at Pick and Scalpel that provides back story and technical details.
(2011-04-18)

Evolution of the sense of smell in birds and other dinosaurs. A new article was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B:
• Download a PDF of the published article, along with the Supplementary Information:
Zelenitsky, D. K., F. Therrien, R. C. Ridgely, A. R. McGee, and L. M. Witmer. 2011. Evolution of olfaction in non-avian theropod dinosaurs and birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278:3625–3634.
• Visit the Project Page
• Find out the back story in Witmer's blog post at Pick and Scalpel
(2011-04-13)
Dinosaur limb cartilage: Casey Holliday and other past and present WitmerLab members published an article in the open-access, freely available online journal PLoS ONE:
Holliday, C. M., R. C. Ridgely, J. C. Sedlmayr, and L. M. Witmer. 2010. Cartilaginous epiphyses in extant archosaurs and their implications for reconstructing limb function in dinosaurs. PLoS ONE 5(9): e13120.
• Download a PDF of the article with Supporting Information
• Find out the back story on Witmer's blog post on Pick-and-Scalpel
• Visit Casey Holliday's site at the University of Missouri for even more resources
(2010-09-30)

Terror Birds!  A new article was published in the open-access, freely available online journal PLoS ONE:
Degrange, F. J., C. P. Tambussi, K. Moreno, L. M. Witmer, and S. Wroe. 2010. Mechanical analysis of feeding behavior in the extinct "terror bird" Andalgalornis steulleti (Gruiformes: Phorusrhacidae). PLoS ONE 5(8): e11856. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.001185
• Visit the Project Page for a Common Language Summary, PDF download of the article, and other content
• Visit a page with Additional Resources, such as news releases, images, movies, animations, and more
• Visit the WitmerLab Facebook page for a photo album
(2010-08-18)
ICVM-9 Uruguay: Larry Witmer, Dave Dufeau, and WitmerLab alumnus Casey Holliday attended and gave platform presentation at the 9th International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology (ICVM) in Punta del Este, Uruguay. The program is available for download here. Witmer was installed as President of the International Society of Vertebrate Morphology at the Congress. (2010-08-04)

Bird beak evolution: Tobin Hieronymus (NEOUCOM) and Larry Witmer published an article on bird beak evolution in the Auk, the major ornithological journal in North America. This article derives from one of the chapters from Tobin's doctoral dissertation research done in our lab. Download the PDF below. (2010-08-04)

Hieronymus, T. L. and L. M. Witmer. 2010. Homology and evolution of avian compound rhamphothecae. Auk 127:590–604.

We welcome Ashley Morhardt to Ohio University and the WitmerLab as our newest doctoral student. Ashley received her Masters degree In Matt Bonnan's lab at Western Illinois University. Welcome, Ashley!  (2010-07-21)

WitmerLab members paused for a group photo, expertly arranged and photographed by Amy Martiny, leading to a major update of the WitmerLab Group Shots webpage.  (2010-07-08)
The Young Scholars OHIO program brought about 35 profoundly gifted students aged 6–16 from 10 states across the country to Ohio University for a range of enrichment programs. WitmerLab hosted nine of these students on 17 May 2010 for a workshop wherein the students worked with the 50+ dinosaur skull casts in the lab and WitmerLab staff and grad students to learn how paleontologists "flesh out" out the past. In addition to discovering the diversity and drama of dinosaur evolution, the students created this Field Guide to the Dinosaurs of the WitmerLab.  (2010-05-18)
The OU Student Research and Creative Activity Expo was held on 13 May 2010, and WitmerLab people again made a great showing with Dave Dufeau, William Porter, and Jason Bourke all presenting posters and Ryan Ridgely again judging the competition (but not in our category). William won two awards and Dave won a Sigma-Xi award. Well done, team! Go visit our Facebook album with photos of the Expo. (2010-05-14)

Congratulations go to WitmerLab doctoral student William Porter who passed his Written and Oral Comprehensive Exam yesterday. A major hurdle successfully leapt! Well done, William!  (2010-05-12)

First-year WitmerLab grad student Jason Bourke just was granted a 3-year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for his project "Nasal cavity shape in dinosaurs and their relatives and its impact on inferences of airflow and physiology based on a novel computational technique." Check out OU's news release. Keep an eye out for this project as the years go on. Well done, Jason!  (2010-04-16)
We've finally updated our Facilities page. Check it out to find out what we have to offer in the way of space, equipment, and other resources. The page has some pretty spectacular panoramic images, as well as "virtual reality tours" (QTVR), of lab spaces. (2010-03-18)
Abstract Abstracts – word clouds of WitmerLab articles. Check out our Facebook page album.

A word cloud is a visual display that uses the relative size of a word as a measure of its frequency of use in a document (“common” words are ignored). It provides a remarkably interpretable view of what the document is “about.” For a scientific article, it’s akin to the opening summary or Abstract, but in an artistically abstract form --- so, Abstract Abstracts. We used the free online app Wordle (http://www.wordle.net/).  (2010-03-15)
Biological Illustrations as Art – Danette Pratt, scientific illustrator in the medical school and friend of the WitmerLab, has a long overdue showing of her wonderful work (Trisolini Gallery, Ohio Univ. 18 Feb – 3 Apr 2010). Our Facebook page album emphasize the work she has done with our lab, but the scope of her talents has to be witnessed firsthand. We’ve published several of her illustrations, and this exhibit includes some stunning pieces Danette did for the Clifford & Witmer (2004) moose nose paper. (2010-03-02)
We welcome Eric Snively, PhD, to Ohio University and the WitmerLab! Eric got his PhD in 2006 at the University of Calgary with Tony Russell and then went on to a postdoc with Philip Currie at the University of Alberta. He now joins the WitmerLab to work on the evolution of feeding mechanics in dinosaurs and other archosaurs while simultaneously getting additional training in the OU Biomedical Engineering program with John Cotton, PhD. Welcome Eric!  (2010-01-30)

We're proud to report that lab alumnus Tobin Hieronymus, who got his PhD here in 2009, just accepted a great tenure-track Assistant Professorship at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (NEOUCOM) in Rootstown. He's currently a postdoctoral fellow at NEOUCOM and starts the new job in July. Congratulations, Tobin!  (2010-01-14)

Witmer presented the Annual Address (an invited keynote speech) entitled "Digital dinosaurs: Unlocking the riddles of the past using advanced 3D imaging," at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Palaeontological Association held at the University of Birmingham, England, on Dec 14, 2009. The abstract can be read in the downloadable program PDF.  (2009-12-22)

The Discovery Channel aired two series that featured Witmer and research from the lab:
1. "Clash of the Dinosaurs" (premiere 6 Dec 2009):
     • Witmer appeared on the first three of the four episodes and spoke about lab research on brain, inner ear, and airway structures and their implications for behavior and physiology, drawing on recent lab publications on sauropods, tyrannosaurs, hadrosaurs, and ankylosaurs.
    • view video clips of the show on Discovery's site
2. "Monsters Resurrected: Biggest Killer Dino" (premiere 6 Dec 2009)
    • Witmer spoke on the brain, skull structure, and behavior of  the theropod dinosaur Spinosaurus
    • view video clips of the show on Discovery's site
(2009-12-22)

Launch of the WitmerLab Online Skull Cast Photo Project — Our collection of fossil skull casts has become a critical local resource for research and outreach. Given that the previous online photo database was among the most visited part of the WitmerLab site, yet was almost a decade old, we undertook a new project to overhaul the site with new photos at higher resolution and better production values. Click Collections at left. This new project is largely the work of lab grad student Amy Martiny. The project is ongoing, and ultimately hundreds of photos will be available. Notification of updates will be made on our WitmerLab Facebook page (become a fan to receive notifications automatically). (2009-11-16)

Witmer was invited to lead a discussion on “Fleshing Out Dinosaur Evolution” as part of the Science Cafι series sponsored by Sigma Xi and ONCA on 14 Oct 2009. WitmerLab members moved 15-20 skull casts and other specimens from the lab to OU’s Front Room. It was free and open to the university community and public. It was well attended with good discussions about the science of dinosaur research, evolution, and the role that dinosaurs can play in society. (2009-11-09)

The National Geographic Channel aired three television shows that featured Witmer and research from the lab:
1. "Bizarre Dinosaurs" (premiere 11 Oct 2009): Witmer spoke specifically about Nigersaurus, but also other dinosaurs
     • Nigersaurus Project Page on this site
     • see behind the scenes pictures from the shoot
     • wallpapers from Nat Geo site shot in the WitmerLab: Majungasaurus skull, albatross dissection
     • new animation of Nigersaurus on 3D Viz page, YouTube, Facebook
2. "Prehistoric Predators: Razor Jaws" (premiere 12 Oct 2009): Witmer spoke about the creodont Hyaenodon
     •
wallpapers from Nat Geo site shot while CT scanning: Witmer positioning Hyaenodon, Hyaenodon skull
     •
animation of Hyaenodon skull and brain cast on 3D Viz page, YouTube, Facebook
3. "Prehistoric Predator: Killer Pig" (premiere 12 Oct 2009): Witmer spoke about the entelodont Archaeotherium
     •
animation of Archaeotherium skull and brain cast on 3D Viz page, YouTube, Facebook
(2009-11-07)

A News & Views piece appeared in Nature to accompany the article by Hu et al. on a dramatic new specimen of the Jurassic troodontid theropod dinosaur Anchiornis. The New & Views piece is largely concerned with the implications of this find for the debates on avian origins and on the origin of flight in that Anchiornis bears long feathers on not only its arms and tail, but also its legs and feet. (2009-09-30)

• Witmer, L. M. 2009. Palaeontology: feathered dinosaurs in a tangle. Nature 461:601–602.

Acclaimed artist Mark Dion collaborated with the OU School of Art for a special exhibit at the Kennedy Museum of Art called “Collections Collected.” We were honored to be among the collections sampled by Dion for the exhibit. The fascination of the exhibit goes well beyond just seeing our stuff included in the installation, as we marveled at the sometimes arresting alliance of our materials with surprising partners. The exhibit is fractal, offering varied impressions and details from a distance and up close. A sense gained by close inspection of an individual object often changes when seen in the context of adjacent objects. (2009-09-18)

"MegaBeasts: Terror Bird" featured Witmer and his lab's research on terror birds. It was produced by Creative Differences and aired on the Discovery Channel on 13 September 2009.  (2009-09-14)

A paper appeared in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on the evolution of the braincase and orbitotemporal region of crocodyliforms. Click the link to go to Casey Holliday's page to download the PDF and other content.  (2009-09-12)

Holliday, C. M. and L. M. Witmer. 2009. The epipterygoid of crocodyliforms and its significance for the evolution of the orbitotemporal region of eusuchians. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29:715–733.
 

Four papers by current WitmerLab members and recent alumni were published in the latest issue of the Anatomical Record: "Special Issue: Unearthing the Anatomy of Dinosaurs" Available below are PDFs of the papers.

Witmer, L. M. and R. C. Ridgely. 2009. New insights into the brain, braincase, and ear region of tyrannosaurs, with implications for sensory organization and behavior. Anatomical Record 292:1266–1296.

Evans, D., L. M. Witmer, and R. C. Ridgely. 2009. Endocranial anatomy of lambeosaurine dinosaurs: a sensorineural perspective on cranial crest function. Anatomical Record 292:1315–1337.

Hieronymus, T. L., L. M. Witmer, D. H. Tanke, and P. J. Currie. 2009. The facial integument of centrosaurine ceratopsids: morphological and histological correlates of novel skin structures. Anatomical Record 292:1370–1396.

Holliday, C. M. 2009. New insights into dinosaur jaw muscle anatomy. Anatomical Record 292:1246–1265.

Stay tuned for Project Pages with additional content.  (2009-08-28)

A paper was published in November 2008 on imaging brain and inner ear structure in archosaurs, emphasizing a modern-day crocodile and owl, as well as such dinosaurs as sauropods and T. rex A nice PDF finally is available:

Witmer, L. M., R. C. Ridgely, D. L. Dufeau, and M. C. Semones. 2008. Using CT to peer into the past: 3D visualization of the brain and ear regions of birds, crocodiles, and nonavian dinosaurs. Pp. 67–88 in H. Endo and R. Frey (eds.), Anatomical Imaging: Towards a New Morphology. Springer-Verlag, Tokyo.

Stay tuned for a Project Page with a Common Language Summary, movies, 3D PDFs, and other content.  (2009-07-29)

Ohio University's alumni magazine Ohio Today ran an infographic in the Summer 2009 issue on the research in the Witmer Lab. Grad student Joe Daniel is also pictured. Click the image at right for a JPG image of the infographic. For a PDF, click here for a larger or a smaller version. Photo credit goes to John Sattler & Neil Ever Osborne (OU-COM), and layout/text credit goes to Mariel Jungkunz and Sarah McDowell (OU).  (2009-07-01)
Joe Daniel got a job! He is now a Gross Anatomy Instructor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. It's not currently a tenure-track position, but could become tenure-track once he puts the finishing touches on his dissertation here. The position also makes Joe the only employed vertebrate paleontologist at an academic institution in the state of Arkansas. Here is his new email address. Well done, Joe! (2009-06-17)
Dave Dufeau received a highly competitive Ohio University Student Enhancement Award (a grant) for his doctoral research, as well as winning First-Place in the Ohio University Student Research and Creative Activity Expo held at the Convocation Center on 14 May 2009. Good job, Dave! (2009-05-27)
A "WitmerLab at Ohio University" Facebook page is launched, presenting less formal content than this "official" OU site, such as photos of lab activities, random images and outtakes, fun animations, etc. You don't have to be a Facebook member to view the page and most of its content, but if you want to submit content, comment, see fan-contributed content, participate in discussions, etc., you'll need to be a FB member and a "fan" of the page. (2009-03-26)
A News & Views piece appeared in Nature to accompany the article by Zheng et al. on a new Liaoning heterodontosaurid preserved with integumentary filaments. The New & Views piece is largely concerned with the implication of this find for the debate on the evolution of feathers in dinosaurs. (2009-03-19)

• Witmer, L. M. 2009. Dinosaurs: Fuzzy origins for feathers. Nature 458:293–295.
 

Tobin Hieronymus successfully defended his doctoral dissertation on 13 February 2009, with a presentation entitled "Morphology and evolution of skin-related features in amniotes." His doctoral committee included Audrone Biknevicius, Pat O'Connor, Steve Reilly, Alycia Stigall, and Larry Witmer. (2009-02-16)
Katie Burns joins the lab for an eight-week internship. Katie is a high-school senior at Linworth Alternative Program in Columbus, Ohio. Her internship (called a Walkabout) allows her to participate in what goes on a scientific research lab. She is doing a variety of tasks, such as learning computer-based 3D visualization techniques. It turns out she has special gifts for painting dinosaur casts, as well evidenced by the finished Gorgosaurus she's holding in the picture. (2009-02-16)
Article on research in the Witmer Lab appears in the Columbus Dispatch, with quotes from Matt Carrano, Chris Brochu, and Jeff Wilson. (2009-02-09)
Article on the inner ears, hearing, & behavior appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

• Walsh, S. A., P. M. Barrett, A. C. Milner, G. Manley, and L. M. Witmer. 2009. Inner ear anatomy is a proxy for deducing auditory capability and behaviour in reptiles and birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1390.

• Click the link to view a common-language summary and download the article. (2009-01-14)

Article on the cranial kinesis in dinosaurs appears in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

• Holliday, C. M. and L. M. Witmer. 2008. Cranial kinesis in dinosaurs: intracranial joints, protractor muscles, and their significance for cranial evolution and function in diapsids. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 28:1073–1088.

• View a common-language summary and images and download the article on Casey Holliday's page (2009-01-11)

Article on the air spaces in the heads of dinosaurs and their relatives appears in a special issue of The Anatomical Record

• Witmer, L. M., and R. C. Ridgely. 2008. The paranasal air sinuses of predatory and armored dinosaurs (Archosauria: Theropoda and Ankylosauria) and their contribution to cephalic architecture. Anatomical Record 291:1362–1388.

• Click the link to view a common language summary, images, movies, 3D PDFs, and other links and to download the article (2008-11-05 & 2008-11-19)

Larry Witmer, Ryan Ridgely, Dave Dufeau, and Taka Tsuihiji participated in several talks at the SVP symposium entitled "New Directions in the Study of Fossil Endocasts: a Symposium in Honor of Harry J. Jerison," organized by Grant Hurlburt and Mary Silcox held on Thursday, October 16, 2008, at the 68th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. (2008-10-21)
A talk at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) in Cleveland, Ohio, was selected to be presented at the SVP press conference. Click the link below to go to a page created for the media and to view the conference abstract, images, 3D animations, and several news reports.

• David Evans, Lawrence Witmer, Ryan Ridgely, John Horner. Endocranial anatomy of lambeosaurine dinosaurs: Implications for cranial crest function and evolution. 

• Check out the YouTube version of the animation. (2008-10-19)

Article on the brain endocast and inner ear of the horned dinosaur Pachyrhinosaurus appears in NRC Canada Monograph

• Witmer, L. M., and R. C. Ridgely. 2008. Structure of the brain cavity and inner ear of the centrosaurine ceratopsid Pachyrhinosaurus based on CT scanning and 3D visualization. Pp. 117–144 in P. J. Currie (ed.), A New Horned Dinosaur From an Upper Cretaceous Bone Bed in Alberta. National Research Council Research Press, Ottawa.

• Click the link to view a common language summary, images, movies, 3D PDFs, and other links and to download the article (2008-10-02)

Tobin Hieronymus accepted a postdoctoral position at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in September. He will defend his dissertation here at OU later this fall (...so we're not ready to bid him farewell just yet, although we miss him already).

• Tobin's new contact information: NEOUCOM, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, 4209 State Rt. 44, Rootstown, OH 44272; office phone: 330-325-6635; thieronymus@neoucom.edu  (2008-10-01).
We welcome new doctoral student William Porter to the lab! (2008-10-01)
Several episodes of  "Jurassic Fight Club" featured Witmer and his lab's research on various dinosaurs. Jurassic Fight Club is produced by 1080, Inc. and premiered on History on 29 July 2008.  (2008-09-02)

"Prehistoric Monsters Revealed" featured Witmer and his lab's research on pterosaurs and terror birds. It was a two-hour documentary produced by Workaholic Productions, Inc. that aired on History on 28 July 2008.  (2008-09-02)

Witmer and his lab's research were featured in the May 2008 issue of Pen, a Japanese men's lifestyle magazine. (2008-09-02)

WitmerLab YouTube Channel launched, posting movies of Majungasaurus and Nigersaurus. More to come! (2008-07-09)
Nigersaurus project page launched with PDFs of the paper and figures, movies, sound, and 3D PDFs. (2008-07-02)

Dave Dufeau received a substantial Jurassic Foundation grant to fund his doctoral research. (2008-07-02)

Ryan Ridgely received a well-deserved promotion to Research Associate. (2008-07-02)

Taka Tsuihiji left the WitmerLab in late March to start a new postdoc in Japan. We wish Taka the best of luck. We miss him. Here is his new contact information: Takanobu Tsuihiji, Ph.D., JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. of Geology, National Museum of Nature and Science, 3-23-1 Hyakunin-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-0073, Japan (E-mail: taka@kahaku.go.jp)  (2008-07-02)

Justin Tickhill's Masters Thesis won a prestigious international award. From the press release: "The Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD) consortium is pleased to announce this year's award winners. Justin Tickhill...was awarded the Innovative ETD Award that recognizes student efforts in transforming the genre of the print dissertation through the use of innovative software to create cutting edge ETDs."   (2008-07-02)

• Visit the award-winning Virtual Pig Head website!

Tobin Hieronymus has two papers published on aquatic birds in the Thewissen & Nummela volume. (2008-01-24)

• Hieronymus, T. L. 2008. Comparative anatomy and physiology of chemical senses in aquatic birds. In: Thewissen, J.G.M., and S. Nummela (eds), Sensory Evolution on the Threshold, Adaptations in Secondarily Aquatic Vertebrates. University of California Press.
• Thewissen, J. G. M., and T. L. Hieronymus. 2008. Evolutionary relationships of aquatic birds. In: Thewissen, J.G.M., and S. Nummela (eds), Sensory Evolution on the Threshold, Adaptations in Secondarily Aquatic Vertebrates. University of California Press.

Dave Dufeau successfully passed his Comprehensive Qualifying Examinations, and has now fully advanced to PhD candidacy.   (2007-12-06)
Paper on the African sauropod dinosaur Nigersaurus published in PLoS ONE (2007-11-15)

• Sereno, P. C., J. A. Wilson, L. M. Witmer, J. A. Whitlock, A. Maga, O. Ide, and T. A. Rowe. 2007. Structural extremes in a Cretaceous dinosaur. PLoS ONE 2(11): e1230. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001230.

• Click the link to view a common language summary, images, and other links and to download the paper

The abstracts of presentations at the 8th International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology (ICVM 8) in  Paris were recently published in the Journal of Morphology. WitmerLab abstracts are below. (2007-11-15)

• Hieronymus, T. L. and L. M. Witmer. 2007. Turtle beaks, bird beaks, croc beaks? Parallel evolution of rhamphothecae in Sauropsida. Journal of Morphology 268(12):1083–1084.

• Holliday, C. M. and L. M. Witmer. 2007. Cranial kinesis in dinosaurs: significance for functional inferences and evolution. Journal of Morphology 268(12):1085–1086.

• Ridgely, R. C. and L. M. Witmer. 2007. Gross Anatomical Brain Region Approximation (GABRA): a new technique for assessing brain structure in dinosaurs and other fossil archosaurs. Journal of Morphology 268(12):1124.

• Tickhill, J. and L. M. Witmer. 2007. The Virtual Pig Head: digital imaging in cephalic anatomy. Journal of Morphology 268(12):1141.

• Tsuihiji, T., M. Kearney, and O. Rieppel. 2007. Dissociation between the axial myology and osteology in the anterior precloacal region of limb-reduced squamates including snakes. Journal of Morphology 268(12):1142.

• Witmer, L. M. and R. C. Ridgely. 2007. Evolving an on-board flight computer: brain, ears, and exaptation in the evolution of birds and other theropod dinosaurs. Journal of Morphology 268(12):1150.

• Dufeau, D. L. and L. M. Witmer.  2007.  Ontogeny and phylogeny of the tympanic pneumatic system of crocodyliform archosaurs. This abstract was somehow and regrettably omitted from the Journal of Morphology abstract volume.

Taka Tsuihiji published a very important paper in the Journal of Morphology (2007-11-15):

• Tsuihiji, T. 2007. Homologies of longissimus, iliocostalis, and hypaxial muscles in the anterior presacral region of extant Diapsida. Journal of Morphology. 268:986–1020.

The WitmerLab traveled to Austin, Texas, for the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, and it was a very successful meeting. Our abstracts are below. (2007-10-23)

• Daniel, J. and L. M. Witmer. 2007. The role of soft tissues in sediment infilling and patterning: an actualistic study with ostrich heads. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27(Supplement to 3):65A.

• Dufeau, D. L. and L. M. Witmer. 2007. Ontogeny and phylogeny of the tympanic pneumatic system of crocodyliform archosaurs. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27(Supplement to 3):70A.

• Hieronymus, T. L. and L. M. Witmer. 2007. Skinning dinosaurs: bony correlates and patterns of cephalic skin evolution in Archosauria. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27(Supplement to 3):89A.

• Holliday, C. M. and L. M. Witmer. 2007. The epipterygoid of crocodyliforms and its significance in the evolution of the orbitotemporal region of eusuchians. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27(Supplement to 3):90A.

• Tsuihiji, T., M. Watabe, L. M. Witmer, T. Tsubamoto, K. Tsogtbaatar. 2007. A juvenile skeleton of Tarbosaurus with a nearly complete skull and its implications for ontogenetic change in tyrannosaurids. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27(Supplement to 3):160A.

Justin Tickhill successfully defended his masters thesis—"The Virtual Pig Head: digital imaging of cephalic anatomy"—on 02 August 2007. Justin's thesis took the unique form of a website. Justin will remain here in Athens for the next year or so before striking out for his next endeavor. (2007-08-29)

• Visit the Virtual Pig Head website!

• At the 8th International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology in Paris, France, 16–21 July, 2007, it was announced that Witmer was elected President-Elect of the International Society of Vertebrate Morphology. He will remain President-Elect and a member of the Executive Committee until the next ICVM (Uruguay 2010) at which point he will become President. (2007-08-03)
• Skull of Majungasaurus paper published as a Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir: Sampson & Witmer

• Click the link to view a common language summary, images, and other links and to download the paper (2007-06-29)

Newly available PDFs of older but often requested papers. All are fully searchable, and some have had better versions of the original illustrations inserted.

• Witmer 1999 The phylogenetic history of paranasal air sinuses. in The Paranasal Sinuses of Higher Primates. (4 MB)
• Witmer 1997 The evolution of the antorbital cavity of archosaurs... JVP Memoir 3. (24 MB)
• Witmer 1997 Craniofacial air sinus systems. in The Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs. (4 MB)
• Witmer 1995 Homology of facial structures in extant archosaurs... Journal of Morphology. (5.5 MB)
• Witmer 1995 The Extant Phylogenetic Bracket... in Functional Morphology in Vertebrate Paleontology (4 MB)
• Witmer 1987 The nature of the antorbital fossa of archosaurs... in SMTE4 Short Papers. (1.2 MB)

see Publications or CV for full citations. (2007-06-16)

• Archosaur jaw muscle homology paper published in the Journal of Morphology: Holliday & Witmer

Click the link to view a lay abstract, images, and other links and to download the paper (2007-06-10)

• Rhino horn growth paper published in the Journal of Morphology: Hieronymus, Witmer, & Ridgely

Click the link to view a common language summary, images, and other links and to download the paper (2006-10-31)

• Flamingo vasculature paper published in the Anatomical Record: Holliday, Ridgely, Balanoff, & Witmer

Click the link to view a common language summary, images, movies, and other links and to download the paper (2006-10-30)

• Casey Holliday finishes doctorate and takes tenure-track job at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University (2006-07-01)

• Update: Casey leaves Marshall for a new position at the University of Missouri (2009-07-27)


Perspectives (Nov. 2012) featured the latest research directions in the WitmerLab.


Perspectives
(Nov. 2001) published a nice overview of the philosophy, goals, approaches, and history of research in the Witmer lab 

 

Funding for projects in the Witmer Lab derive primarily from grants to Witmer from the National Science Foundation (NSF) with important support from Ohio University and the OU Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine

 


The Ohio Supercomputing Center provides important support and resources for many of the activities in the Witmer Lab

 

 

   
  note: Research in the Witmer lab does not involve experimentation on live animals.  Specimens of modern animals used in research are salvage specimens, obtained legally from commercial or governmental sources.
  Ohio University
Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
Irvine Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
740-593-2530 740-597-2778 fax
 

Last updated: 03/05/2014