New paper I was lucky to be a part of investigating human dental enamel periodicity and sexual dimorphism has just been published in the Journal of Structural Biology. The study, led by Dr Patrick Mahoney at the University of Kent in the UK, provides evidence that the human skeletal biorhythm is dimorphic. The paper is open access for 50 days.
My masters student's (Meg Walker) paper reporting preliminary descriptions of bone histology in a fossil and modern wombat is now out in Australian Mammalogy. We had a very limited sample size, but this small study is constructing hypotheses that can be tested in the future using a larger wombat bone sample size. Wombat bone microstructure may reflect a wombat's adaptation to the burrow environment...
A very cool study I have been lucky to be involved with, led by Patrick Mahoney at the University of Kent in the UK, investigating skeletal biorhythm and sexual dimorphism in humans, has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Structural Biology! The rhythmical nature of hard tissue growth is retained by teeth in the form of enamel long period lines (that can be examined using histological methods). In our new paper we tested whether this rhythm differs between the human sexes, because aspects of our skeletal morphology, such as stature, are sexually dimorphic. Dental thin sections from 94 modern individuals in England showed that indeed the dental measures of this rhythm differ between males and females. The paper provides first evidence that this dental rhythm may be one of the factors that influences how dental morphology is expressed in males and females.
Last year, my masters student Meg Walker completed a small project comparing bone histology in a modern and fossil wombat. We wanted to check whether wombat bone forms in a way that may relate to the burrow environment all the while being constrained biomechanically (because wombats have very powerful forelimbs that they use in digging their burrows). We found that the modern wombat shows evidence of bone remodelling and also some bone tissue types (such as coarse compact cancellous bone) that may facilitate quick wombat growth in the burrow and adaptation to mechanical load. These results are very preliminary because we only had a couple of specimens that we could examine, but in this new paper we use the data to build and discuss hypotheses that can be tested in the future. The paper should be out soon in Australian Mammalogy!
Meg and I discussing wombat bone histology. Image by Jack Fox.
One of the really important aspects of my current fellowship funded by the Australian Research Council is research training of biological anthropologists who are at early stages of their career. Given that my work is highly practical, the plan has always been to run introductory lab sessions in person to offer training in the preparation and analysis of thin sections. As the Coronavirus pandemic has grounded everyone at home, I decided to move the image analysis aspect of the training online. I also opened them up to the rest of the world, and to my surprise the response has been immense! The workshops reached capacity (300) within 5 days... I am super pleased that there is some interest out there in bone histology analysis.
My intention behind these workshops is to not only provide introductory training, but to also demonstrate that there should be no boundaries in trying methods that we are new to. So many times in my own career I have been told that some techniques are "too complicated", "too this".... "too that"... Surely, that slows down science progress as it turns us away from learning new methods? If, as part of my workshops, even 1 participant takes something away and applies it to their research, which will result in a new discovery... then we've moved things forward, even if it's just a bit!
I had to close registrations today, but if you are still interested in joining us over the next few weeks, please email me so that I can place you on a waiting list.