Advances in Paleontology
New Ways to Study Ancient Life
Integrating Research and Education > Advances in Paleontology > Morphology
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Morphology

This page was written by Ewan Wolff, Montana State University Geoscience Education Web Development Team

An ostrich skull. Details

Morphology is the study of animal form. In paleontology, this primarily refers to the study of bone anatomy and function, and muscle reconstruction from evidence of muscle attachments on bone. During the past few years, paleontologists have also begun inferring the presence of superficial structures from bone surface anatomy, such as trunks, horns, and fleshy patches.

Morphology Pages

These image galleries and videos are excellent resources for learning more about form and function.

Teaching Resources

The following are some ideas for teaching about morphology in the classroom.


Scientist Profile: Tim Rowe, 3-D Morphologist and Paleontologist


If you have browsed through these pages, you have probably seen how much you can gather from three dimensional images and CAT scans. One trend in recent years has been the popularity of broad scientific surveys, and one of the biggest of these contributions to the field has been undertaken by Dr. Tim Rowe.

Dr. Rowe is the founder of the digital morphology lab at University of Texas at Austin. The lab specializes in various methods of three-dimensional scanning, analysis and reconstruction. He has created and overseen numerous CT scans of modern animals, the three-dimensional examination of Tyrannosaurus Sue, and the uncovering of the Archaeoraptor forgery, one of the greatest fossil scandals since the Piltdown Man. The work of the Digimorph lab under his direction has provided a resource for all levels from the public to the academic community.

Learn more about Dr. Rowe and the Digimorph Lab


Scientist Profile: Lawrence M. Witmer, Functional Anatomist


Dr. Witmer originated the concept of the extant phylogenetic bracket in paleontology, or the idea that inferences about the structure and function of soft parts, like trunks, or noses, in ancient animals made from bony remains should be compared to similar structures in living related animals. The majority of Dr. Witmer's research concerns these types of soft-tissue reconstructions, and the research at his lab is based on extensive dissection of structures, mostly on donated animal cadavres, that overlie the bone in the skull like horns, and ear canals.

Learn more about Dr. Witmer and his research


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