Reference : UMR5288-JOSBRA-001
Workplace : TOULOUSE
Date of publication : Thursday, May 12, 2022
Scientific Responsible name : José Braga
Type of Contract : PhD Student contract / Thesis offer
Contract Period : 36 months
Start date of the thesis : 3 October 2022
Proportion of work : Full time
Remuneration : 2 135,00 € gross monthly
Description of the thesis topic
Tracking the evolution of hominid life histories using computational anatomy and mandibular ontogeny
The unique growth process featured by modern humans is frequently associated trade-offs between life history components such as reproduction and survival. Because teeth are well preserved in the fossil record and since the first molar development is considered to correlate with life history across extant primates broadly, it is used to suggest that the modern human's unique growth appeared during the Middle to Late Pleistocene at the earliest.
The infant/child facial skeleton represents the primary factor that controls the developing teeth, and jaw growth was found to be associated to life history among primates. Because ontogenetic changes in the jaws and teeth represent tightly correlated phenotypic traits that would influence each other during development, inferences of paleolife histories during human evolution may benefit from studies of the mandibular ontogeny in both modern apes and fossil hominin species.
This PhD aims to use novel methods named under the umbrella term “computational anatomy” (CA). The PhD student will develop and apply CA methods in order to investigate the concomitant changes in mandibular size and shape (allometry), cortical thickening, and changes in dental location (before or after eruption) and size during ontogeny in modern humans, African apes and two fossil hominin species: Paranthropus robustus and Australopithecus afarensis.
The activities carried out will be:
- carrying out experiments coupling image processing and morphometrics
- analysis and synthesis of results, data processing
- oral and written communication of results in english: writing of reports and scientific articles, participation in international conferences
The expected skills are:
- knowledge in biological/evolutionary anthropology
- data processing skills: use of R, possibly python
- methodological skills in statistics and mathematics
- a developed spirit of synthesis: knowing how to synthesize results and observations in order to draw conclusions
- scientific curiosity: questioning observations and results obtained with a critical mind and in the light of scientific literature
- scientific communication skills in english (oral and written): know how to write a scientific article, give an international conference
The candidate must have a Master 2 in Biological Anthropology or Evolutionary Biology with skills in computer science.
The PhD is part of the ATLAS (“AnaTomicaL shApeS: Transferring knowledge in computational anatomy to study early human evolution in Africa) project funded by the CNRS within the framework of the CNRS and the University of Chicago Collaboration Program. This project associates three laboratories: UMR 5288 (CAGT, Pr. José Braga, expertise in palaeoanthropology), UMR 5506 (LIRMM, Dr Gérard Subsol, expertise in computer sciences), and the University of Chicago (Basic Science Division/Organismal Biology & Anatomy, Pr Zeresenay Alemseged, expertise in palaeoanthropology). Regular exchanges will be set up with these laboratories, which will provide their respective expertise and support.
The PhD student will be co-supervised by José Braga (Toulouse, CAGT) and Gérard Subsol (Montpellier, LIRMM).The work will be mainly carried out at the CAGT laboratory in Toulouse, in the IDEA team led by J. Braga (https://cagt.cnrs.fr)/braga-jose/).
The PhD student will also serve as a bridge between the three aforementioned laboratories for Transfer of Knowledge. The PhD student will be trained in Montpellier on how to use the CA tools, will assess their application with the University of Chicago (Z. Alemseged and two PhD students from his lab., Hannah Farrell and Weldeyared Reda), will collect available micro-CT data in University of Chicago and in CAGT (Toulouse), will subsequently adapt and apply the tools, define user-protocols and analyze the results with experts in University of Chicago and in CAGT (Toulouse). The PhD student will also co-supervise Master students in collaboration with her/his supervisors in Toulouse and Montpellier and Z. Alemseged in the University of Chicago.
Constraints and risks
We talk about it on Twitter!