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Sarah-Jane Strachan

“Reconstruction of life history traits in extinct fossil taxa using palaeohistology.”

PhD project title:

Ankylosaur Palaeohistology and Life History Traits.


Sarah-Jane Strachan
Project description:

I graduated from UCL and Southampton University (Vertebrate Palaeontology).  My Master’s thesis was on the histology of ankylosaur pelvic shields from the Lower Cretaceous, Isle of Wight.  My particular interest is palaeohistology and dinosaurs and my doctoral research looks at the preserved biology within fossilised bone in order to infer organismal behaviour, ontogeny and growth in extinct taxa.  

Although generalised ontogenetic stages have been outlined, ankylosaurs pose a particular challenge in that they rarely display cyclical growth marks, meaning that chronological age of specimens has been difficult to estimate.  This is critical in being able to construct growth curves and hence understand life history traits.  My research looks at some of the less studied histological structures in fossilised bone to see if they are indications of firstly ontogenetic stage and secondly whether they can be used to estimate chronological age in ankylosaurs,  as well as extending the work already published by sampling a greater range of taxa.  I am hoping to draw conclusions regarding life history traits and develop new techniques that can then be applied to a range of extinct taxa. I am based at UCL with Paul Upchurch and Anjali Goswami and also working with Edina Prondvai at Ghent University.