Dr. Lisa Whitenack Examines "400 Million Years of Shark Teeth"

  • Oct 6, 2018

EES is proud to welcome Dr. Lisa Whitenack, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Allegheny College, as our Distinguished Speaker this week.

"400 Million Years of Shark Teeth: An Evolutionary Puzzle"

The shark fossil record is composed primarily of teeth, as the rest of the body is made of cartilage and thus does not fossilize well. Thus, inferences about shark ecology and evolution are primarily based on tooth shape. However, studies on living sharks have recently called the link between shark tooth shape, function, and ecology into question. Whitenack will discuss her research on both living and fossil shark teeth, which includes biomechanics and ecological analyses, as well as the future of fossil shark research.

Whitenack's general research interest is the biomechanics of vertebrates and invertebrates, with a focus on predator-prey systems in the fossil record. She uses exploration of the form-function relationship to infer biological role and adaptive patterns, which becomes a springboard for evolutionary questions such as the origin and evolutionary consequences of the features in question. As behavior and ecology is often lost when studying the functional morphology of extinct animals, starting with extant organisms allows Whitenack to use behavioral and physiological data in conjunction with morphological data to refine and support hypotheses. Biomechanical techniques can then be applied to extinct organisms for which there is only have morphological data.

Come take a bite out of this fascinating topic on Friday, October 12, 2018 at 12:30 PM in Room 204, Natural Science Building on the East Lansing Campus.