Form, Function and Macroevolution in Dinosaurs

This PhD project will reconstruct muscle evolution across dinosaur evolutionary history and assess the implications on biomechanical performance and ecological adaptation.

The studentship is part of the ACCE doctoral training partnership, funded by NERC and starts October 2019.

Apply for this course

Read the eligibility criteria and application guidance below, then send your application to Dr Karl Bates.

Application deadline: 9 January 2019


Dinosaurs dominated terrestrial ecosystems throughout the Mesozoic, and radiated into a diverse array of body shapes and sizes. They are therefore a model system for understanding the interactions between anatomy, function and ecology through time.

However, there is currently a significant void between anatomical studies of dinosaurs and macroevolutionary analyses, and consequently the functional and ecomorphological pressures behind their evolutionary radiations are poorly understood.

We will address this issue by quantitively reconstructing muscle evolution across dinosaur evolutionary history, and using sophisticated biomechanical modelling to assess the implications of muscle evolution on biomechanical performance and ecological adaption. 


The student will:

  • Generate a large database of osteological and soft tissue measurements from living archosaurs using a combination of dissection and medical image data.
  • Build upon an existing data base of 3D models of dinosaurs by digitizing key specimens from UK and overseas museums.
  • Map soft tissue reconstructions of these fossils on to a phylogenetic tree and examine patterns of soft tissue evolution, particularly correlations with major functional and ecological transitions in dinosaurs.
  • Finally, the student will input the muscle reconstructions into new biomechanical models of dinosaur taxa to examine how muscle evolution affects mechanical performance and adaptation, providing new insights into major ecological transitions, such as the evolution of herbivory and quadrupedalism. 

Supervision and training

The ideal student would have a background in zoology/palaeontology and skills in quantitative, mechanical and/or 3D digital techniques, and/or phylogenetic comparative methods, but training will be provided in all techniques.

The supervisory team includes experts in vertebrate anatomy, palaeontology, biomechanics, imaging and computer simulation. The student will be based with Dr Bates in the Evolutionary Morphology & Biomechanics Group at Liverpool but will spend time with Dr Maidment at The Natural History Museum. 


ACCE studentships are available to UK and EU applicants only.

Residency rules apply. UK and EU students with qualifying residence in the UK are eligible for full-cost awards. Non-UK students from the EU who do not have qualifying residence are eligible for fees-only awards, which covers the tuition fees and Research Training Support Grant (RTSG), but not stipend. 

All applicants need to comply with the registered university's English-language requirements.

Applicants should have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a master's degree. Applicants with a minimum Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply.

How to apply

Applications for the PhD are processed through the University of Liverpool.

Interested students are strongly encouraged to contact the lead supervisor Dr Karl Bates in advance of the application deadline.

Applications should be sent by email to Dr Karl Bates and include:

  • a CV
  • letter of application
  • the contact details of two referees

The deadline for applications is 9 January 2019.

Any questions?

If you have any questions about the project please contact

Main supervisor: Dr Karl Bates


University of Liverpool

Main supervisor: Dr Karl Bates

Co-supervisor: Dr Nathan Jeffery

The Natural History Museum

Co-supervisor: Dr Susannah Maidment


Allen, V., Bates, K.T., Zhiheng, L. & Hutchinson, J.R. 2013. The evolution of body shape and locomotion in bird-line archosaurs. Nature 497: 104-107

Maidment, S.C.R, Bates, K.T., Falkingham, P.L., VanBuren, C., Arbour, V., & Barrett, P.M. 2014. Locomotion in ornithischian dinosaurs: an assessment using three-dimensional computational modelling. Biological Reviews 89: 588-617. 

Sellers, W.I., Pond, S.B., Brassey, C.A., Manning, P.L. & Bates, K.T. 2017. Investigating the running abilities of Tyrannosaurus rex using stress-constrained multibody dynamic analysis. PeerJ 5:e3420.

Macaulay, S., Bates, K.T., Hone, D., Allen, V., Brophy, P. & Hutchinson, J.R. Submitted. Linking integument, feather and body shape evolution in archosaurs. Evolution. 

ACCE Doctoral Training Partnership

Joint PhD training partnerships between the Natural History Museum and the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool and York, and the NERC’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).

Funded by 

Submit your application