|Kingston upon Hull
|UK Students, EU Students, International Students
|From £18,622 per annum (22/23 rate)
|30th November 2023
|5th January 2024
Supervisors: Dr Jen Bright, Dr Philip Morris, Dr Peter Watson, Dr Stephan Lautenschlager
Bird beaks are a composite structure where a bony core is surrounded by a keratinous sheath, the rhamphotheca. It is the rhamphotheca that comes into direct contact with the birds’ environment, be that during feeding, preening, nest building, or any of the other numerous behaviours that are carried out using the beak; however, most morphological study that has been carried out on bird beaks has been conducted on the bony core only. The rhamphotheca may extend greatly beyond the tip of the bony core, dramatically altering both the length and curvature of the beak overall.
Moreover, we know that the covariation in shape between these two tissues differs between bird families: the prominent hooked beaks of raptors may have little bone extending into the beak tip, whereas flatter-beaked birds like kingfishers have a rhamphotheca that closely matches the shape of the underlying bone. Other birds may have tooth-like projections along the lateral edges of the keratin, or have large, hollow casques. Excluding these shape variations may have significant implications for how the functional morphology of the beak has been interpreted.
This project will use CT scans to reconstruct the bone and rhamphotheca of a number of bird beaks. With a better understanding of how the hard and soft tissues of the beak evolve together, we will be able to gain a greater appreciation for the biodiversity present in this structure, and in the multiple reptilian taxa in which it has evolved through time. This project is part of a larger multidisciplinary study investigating functional performance and its evolution in the feeding mechanics of bird beaks and skulls. The student will work with a team spanning Biology and Engineering, and will have access to the resources of both, including a high-performance computer cluster, materials testing facilities, and a micro-CT scanner. The student will receive training in the digital reconstruction of anatomy from CT and diceCT scans, and how to use these reconstructions in downstream finite element modelling.
This project will provide students with a full PhD studentship. This consists of:
Apply now, by clicking the 'Apply' button, above.
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