Karoo Palaeontology Department

Students and Opportunities


A variety of projects in vertebrate palaeontology (including palaeohistology) at the postgraduate (BScHons, MSc and PhD) and postdoctoral levels are available.  Enquiries should be made to Dr Jennifer Botha-Brink (Head of the Karoo Palaeontology Department) at jbotha [at] nasmus [dot] co [dot] za.


Dr Lucas Legendre (2016-)

Bone microstructure of fossorial modern mammals.

This study aims to investigate the fossorial activity of modern mammals, using histological thin sections of limb bones to evaluate biomechanical and structural constraints associated with burrowing. Phylogenetic comparative methods will also be applied to microanatomical features to identify potential correlation between fossoriality and bone microstructure, as well as associated evolutionary trends. Email: lucasjlegendre [at] gmail [dot] com  

Current Students

Elize Butler PhD candidate (2013-)

Osteohistology and morphology of a new gorgonopsian therapsid from the Karoo Basin of South Africa.

This research entails the morphological description of the crania and postcrania of a new species of gorgonopsian therapsid from the uppermost Permian Dicynodon Assemblage Zone of South Africa. The bone histology of this new species will be examined in order to ascertain aspects about its growth, and the results will be compared with that of other gorgonopsians to gain a better understanding of gorgonopsian growth dynamics.


Luke Norton PhD candidate (2013-)

Tooth replacement patters in the Eutheriodontia from South Africa.

This study assesses the tooth replacement of selected therocephalian and cynodont therapsids using micro-CT scanning in order to determine tooth replacement patterns and rates within derived members of the Therapsida.


Mike Strong PhD candidate (2012-)

The role of a muscular diaphragm, ribs and sternum in the evolution of mammals from their therapsid ancestors.

The aim of this study is to establish the first appearance of the muscular diaphragm and hence by extrapolation and definition the origin of the mammalian condition as evidenced  by an endothermic state.  The co-evolution of ribs and sternum will be an integral element of this research. 


Past Students

Adam Huttenlocker PhD (2009-2013)

Osteohistology and skeletal growth in Permo-Triassic therocephalian therapsids (Amniota: Synapsida).

This study analysed the growth patterns in therocephalian and cynodont therapsids using osteohistological and skeletochronological methods, and re-assessed the phylogenetic relationships amongst Therocephalia. Changes in body size and growth rates were examined in order to shed light on therocephalian evolution with special emphasis on taxa associated with the Permo-Triassic mass extinction.