Tim R Birkhead lab group
When you say an object is ‘egg-shaped’ most people think of the oval shaped eggs of chickens. The reality is that egg shape differs markedly between species depending on particular selective pressures.
Scientists have been trying to crack the code of why most shorebirds lay extreme pear-shaped eggs. Historically, it was thought that this shape allowed the egg to roll in a tight circle. This was believed to save the egg from a fatal fall if accidently knocked off a precarious nest site, such as cliff-ledge. Through experiments in the lab, we have found that pear-shaped eggs are rolling over the mark – and off the cliff. So what is the real purpose of laying a pointed egg?
My current postdoctoral research aims to explore other pressures that may be driving the evolution of pear-shaped eggs.
Go to our lab website to find out more about our group.
The Function, Evolution and Anatomy Research (FEAR)
I completed my PhD in the FEAR lab headed by A/Prof Stephen Wroe, and have continued on as a postdoctoral fellow, research assistant and now a collaborator. Research in the FEAR lab focuses on the functional morphology and biomechanics of living and extinct vertebrates.
Central to our approach is the use of 3D computer simulations to illustrate mechanical stresses and strains applied to the skull across a range of biting, tearing and shaking motions that simulate the impact of controlling and killing a struggling prey. Play the video to see a simulation of a Tasmanian devil biting. We also have students assessing locomotion of dinosaurs and extinct macropods.
With many species now in decline worldwide, we aim to use biomechanics to better understand their locomotion, feeding and species interactions, which in turn can be used to better inform management and conservation. For example, the key objective of my postdoctoral research is to test the relationship between physical characteristics of eggshells and species-specific breeding and nesting traits. With this information, I hope to identify vulnerable species and predict the nesting behaviour of rare and extinct birds.
Go to our official FEARlab website to view more projects like this, including analysis of the skulls of humans, great white sharks, komodo dragons, sabretooth tigers, Tyrannosaurus rex, dingos and crocodiles.
Visit the facebook page of the FEARlab to look for latest updates within the lab.