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UCL Division of Biosciences

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Research Themes

The Centre for Integrative Anatomy is devoted to understanding the diversification of life on earth by studying comparative anatomy. We use modern analytical and imaging techniques to investigate the form-function relationships, ecomorphology, development, and macroevolution. 

Form

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The study of organismal form is the core of evolutionary and comparative anatomy. How variable are populations, species, and clades? How does form change through embryonic development and later growth? What can anatomy tell us about how extinct organisms looked and behaved? We use traditional (dissection, histology) and modern (microCT, neutron scanning, geometric morphometrics) techniques to describe and quantify the structure of the vertebrate body. 

Function

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Biomechanics is the study of structure and function. Using experimental and digital modelling techniques, we study how diverse morphologies result in differences in performance, behaviour, and, ultimately, fitness. This is key to understanding adaptation and evolution of anatomy. Biomechanics also interfaces with biomedical research into kinesiology, sports medicine, and prosthetics. 

Forensic Anatomy

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Forensic anatomy encompasses the study of both hard and soft tissue. It involves the investigation and the application of anatomy to the understanding of the role of the dead body in the field of forensic science. Questions we ask include: How can skeletal and dental remains help us identify an individual? How does the body decompose in different environments? How can trauma patterns help to identify the instrument used to inflict an injury?

Diversification

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The overarching goal of the CIA is to understand the diversification of vertebrate anatomy in deep time. This includes investigating the link between ecology and morphology, using modern species to understand fossil taxa, studying major transitions (e.g., the first terrestrial vertebrates, the origin of flight), and human origins.