Stephan Lautenschlager

PhD Candidate, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol


Functional morphology and biomechanical modelling in extinct and extant vertebrates, visualisation and reconstruction of hard- and soft tissue anatomy in fossil animals


My research focuses on what is now rapidly becoming an individual sub-discipline in earth sciences and palaeontology, known as “virtual palaeontology”. It combines classic palaeontology and latest computational methods and techniques to investigate fossil life.

Using modern computer technology, such as computed tomographic (CT) or synchrotron scanning, 3D visualisation and modelling, as well as finite element analysis (FEA), I investigate the biomechanical function and properties of dinosaurs (and other fossil animals). I am interested in how morphology relates to function and how both factors evolve and change throughout time. My current research centres on the biomechanics and functional morphology of therizinosaurs, an enigmatic clade of theropod dinosaurs, found in Cretaceous deposits in Asia and North America.

My further research interests aim at the reconstruction of hard- and soft tissue structures in fossils, including the visualisation of cranial musculature or the endocranial anatomy (brain and inner ear). Drawing upon my background as a professional software engineer, I explore the application of different software tools, but also comparative anatomy and “traditional” palaeontology to elucidate fossil morphology. As a result, the reconstructed anatomy can reveal a vast amount of information on the biology (sensory and cognitive function, bite forces), behaviour and ecology (dietary strategies, feeding behaviour, predator-prey interaction) of extinct animals.

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