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Published: January 5, 2015

Compiling an atlas of phylogenetic characters for anomodont therapsids

Stephanie Ware, Manager, Morphology Labs, SEM

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Project Mentor: Dr. Kenneth D. Angielczyk (Curator, Geology)

Project Description: Anomodont therapsids are an extinct clade of nonmammalian synapsids that existed between about 270 and 200 million years ago. During this time, they were among the most diverse and abundant tetrapod herbivores, making them key components of terrestrial ecosystems near the time of the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. The phylogenetic relationships of anomodonts have received considerable scrutiny over the past decade, but there is inconsistency in how various authors define characters and character states, making it difficult for researchers to understand and re-use character data from published datasets. Drawing on the Field Museum's historic collections and new material collected recently in Tanzania and Zambia, we will compile a comprehensive photographic atlas of characters and character states used in recent phylogenetic analyses of anomodonts. Not only will this atlas make published phylogenetic analyses much more accessible, it will also be a key resource for understanding morphological variation in anomodonts.

Research methods and techniques: The intern working on this project will receive training in vertebrate anatomy and osteology, proper care and handling of paleontological materials, and photographic and image processing techniques. She or he will also gain first-hand experience working with morphological data for phylogenetic analyses and will gain insight into how morphological characters are defined and utilized. The effectiveness of the atlas will be tested by encouraging the intern to use it to code new anomodont specimens for inclusion in phylogenetic analyses.


Stephanie Ware
Manager, Morphology Labs, SEM

Stephanie Ware is currently a research assistant in the Division of Insects currently working with Dr. Petra Sierwald. She also works with Mary Hennen in the Division of Birds monitoring the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) populations in Illinois.