Postdoctoral researcher Sara Varela has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant for her project MAPAS: Mapping Biodiversity Cradles and Graves
Sara’s project seeks to understand where and why biodiversity originates and disappears. To do so, MAPAS will use modeling and mapping of species originations and extinctions in deep time and to test the influence of different biotic and abiotic drivers in generating biodiversity.
MAPAS will be based at the University of Vigo, Spain, and will start in 2021.
Roy Ebel successfully defended his master’s thesis on the Convergent Evolution of Microanatomical and Morphological Traits in the Skull Roof of Fossorial Lizards and Snakes. For this project Roy processed CT-scans of the skulls of 99 squamate species and analyzed the morphology of the skull roof in relation to locomotory behaviors.
The thesis was supervised by Eli Amson and Johannes Müller, examiners were Nadia Fröbisch and John Nyakatura, and the master’s was undertaken through the Institute for Biology at the Faculty of Life Sciences, Humboldt Unitversity.
For his work, Roy received a mark 1.0 and was ranked 1st in his graduating class! Congrats Roy!
This is based on the study of the Mleisa 1 proboscidean trackway site: Bibi, F., Kraatz, B. P., Craig, N., Beech, M., Schuster, M., & Hill, A. (2012). Early evidence for complex social structure in Proboscidea from a late Miocene trackway site in the United Arab Emirates. Biology Letters, 8(4), 670-673.
Our team led by Bibi has just returned from a month’s fieldwork in the Pleistocene deposits of the upper Atbara River in eastern Sudan. This was the second season there and the first of a 3 year project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Lots of cool fossils found! Besides the Museum für Naturkunde, our team includes partners from Alneelain University, the International African University, and the University of Khartoum, as well as Technical University (Berlin), the Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics (Hannover), Western University (USA), and the University of Bordeaux. Fossils and lithics en route to Berlin for study, rock samples for paleoenvironmental analysis and OSL and ESR dating. Stay tuned.
On December 4th Khalafallah Salih successfully defended his PhD on the Diversity and Systematics of the Late Cretaceous Crocodyliformes of Sudan at the Technische Universität Berlin. Congratulations Khalaf!
Faysal Bibi just returned from Abu Dhabi for filming part of a documentary by PBS and Smithsonian Channel on the evolution of elephants. Shooting took place at the site of Mleisa 1, which records the trackways of prehistoric elephants that walked across the Abu Dhabi landscape 7 million years ago. The site is important because it preserves the footprints of a herd of individuals, suggesting that Miocene elephants exhibited similar social structure as elephants today.
In January 2018, Faysal Bibi led an international team in a paleontological survey of the upper Atbara River and Setit River Valleys in eastern Sudan. Previous work had documented the presence of middle to late Pleistocene sites in the region and our team discovered many more new localities and a diverse fauna. This work was supported by a National Geographic Explorer’s Grant and the German Research Foundation (DFG), and included Johannes Müller (MfN), Robert Bussert (TU Berlin), Brian Kraatz (Western U.), and colleagues Ali Eisawi from Neelain University and Omer el Bedri from African University in Khartoum.
In April 2017, our team described a new species of fossil hippopotamus from the late Miocene Baynunah Formation in the United Arab Emirates. In a study published in the journal Palaeovertebrata, scientists led by Jean-Renaud Boisserie described the species Archaeopotamus qeshta, a primitive hippo with close relatives previously described from late Miocene to early Pleistocene sites in Kenya and possibly Tanzania. The new species name ‘queshta’ comes from the Egyptian name for the modern hippopotamus ‘sayed qeshta’ (سيد قشطى) which means ‘Mr. Cream’.
The year is almost over, and there have been quite a few changes. First and foremost, Gabi successfully defended her dissertation. Congratulations, Dr. Sobral!
Also, Sebastian won the 2nd place in the student competition at the annual meeting of the Herpetological Association of Africa. Congrats also here!
Finally, Christy will be leaving the lab to start her new position in Melbourne, Australia, in January. After Johannes, Christy was the longest member of the lab, and we wish her all the best for her career down under!