In this three-hour tutorial, we take students on an extraordinary journey through mammalian evolution and morphology. We will integrate research from anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, molecular and developmental biology and the tutorial will be of particular use to students reading neuroscience, zoology, genetics, medicine and psychology.
We begin with the question, what is special about the vertebrate head? We overview development of the head, addressing chordate phylogeny, chordate, vertebrate and gnathostome synapomorphies and important mammalian developmental mechanisms such as cranial neural crest migration and intramembranous ossification. The importance of genes such as Sox-9 and Hoxa-2 in the development of endochondral and dermal bone will be elucidated. We then consider evolution of the mammalian brain and the relationship between human brain and skull. Humans are special in that our brain is five times larger than would be predicted purely on the basis of body size. How has this happened? How has the skull evolved to accommodate the sense organs without compromising their function? How has the head changed from early hominins to homo sapiens? What are the differences between the chimpanzee, gorilla and human head and how acceptable is the evolutionary logic of fiction such as Planet of the Apes? We finish by considering whether the human head is continuing to evolve and what this might mean for behaviour.
For further information and a programme, please email Dr Guy Sutton at the address in the footer below.