Advanced imaging is an important, non-invasive tool for shedding light on the internal anatomy of a wide array of organisms. The astonishing morphological diversity seen in living mammals is a direct result of the adaptive success of their earliest ancestors, stretching back into deep time. However, crucial events in the evolution of key features, such as the development of the mammalian brain and feeding apparatus, remain obscured by an incomplete fossil record. Even in well-preserved specimens, access to pertinent anatomical areas is often difficult using traditional techniques. Paleontology provides important raw data in the form of morphology not available from the study of living organisms; with the added dimension of time, fossils anchor biological events to a specific point in the past, affording an evolutionary perspective to the exploration of form and function.
Dr. Davis has a strong background in the study and imaging of living and extinct mammals, and experience in team leadership. He brings a comparative and evolutionary perspective to the study of key mammalian features such as patterns of tooth eruption, development of the brain, and the hallmark mammalian ear through the application of advanced imaging techniques.
The utilization of micro-computed tomography to image fossil and recent mammals (including humans) is of increasing value to studies of evolutionary development and comparative morphology, allowing collecting of qualitative (presence/absence of features) and quantitative (volume, angles, etc.) data for otherwise elusive features. Dr. Davis has collected and analyzed micro-CT data and used scanning electron microscopy to discover new characteristics of the jaw in fossil mammals, and to published novel hypotheses of the evolution and development of the mammalian dentition. He has also organized and executed numerous field expeditions to recover new fossil vertebrates, including most recently an externally-funded expedition of his own.
Cifelli, R.L. & Davis, B.M. (2003). Marsupial origins. Science, 302, 1899–1900.
Davis, B.M. (2011). A novel interpretation of the tribosphenidan mammal Slaughteria eruptens from the
Early Cretaceous Trinity Group, and implications for dental formula in early mammals. Journal of
Vertebrate Paleontology, 31(3), 676–683.
Davis, B.M. (2011). Evolution of the tribosphenic molar pattern in early mammals, with comments on the
“dual-origin” hypothesis. Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 18, 227–244.
Davis, B.M. (2012). Micro-computed tomography reveals a diversity of peramuran mammals from the
Purbeck Group (Berriasian) of England. Palaeontology, 55(4), 789–817.
Cifelli, R.L. & Davis, B.M. (2013). Jurassic fossils and mammalian antiquity. Nature, 500, 160–161.