Research

Larry Martin

Larry D. Martin served as a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a curator in vertebrate paleontology at the University of Kansas from 1972 until his death in 2013. He authored more than 170 scientific papers in the most prestigious journals and books, and was the recipient of numerous research grants from the National Science Foundation, National Geographic, NASA and other agencies and societies. He trained many students at KU, paleobiologists who are now scientific leaders in the People’s Republic of China, South Korea, and universities worldwide.

 

Desui Miao

In last decade, Collection Manager Dr. Desui Miao has collaborated with his Chinese colleagues, mainly Prof. Mee-mann Chang, at Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing on several Paleogene fish groups that showed a trans-Pacific distribution pattern, an overview of the Mesozoic fishes of Asia, an Early Cretaceous lamprey from Jehol biota, and an extraordinarily thick-boned cyprinid from the northern Tibetan plateau that was linked to the aridification of the region. He also co-edited a book on Jehol biota.

David A. Burnham

Dr. David A. Burnham is the Division's preparator and specializes in paleontological techniques that greatly enhance the information we can extract from the fossil record. This work includes the transfer of fossil skeletons out of rock matrix to fully expose the specimens and allows three-dimensional study of the bones. Such a technique provides superior quality x-rays and specimen casts.  Both are used to determine range of motion for locomotion and helps to predict lifestyles with accurate postures. One example is the four-winged glider, Microraptor, that was replicated from the original bones and a life model was then flown to test its flight capabilities. With this new data, Dr. Burnham, along with colleagues from KU and Northeastern University (Shenyang, China), concluded that the Microrator was an adept glider--strongly suggesting that the evolution of flight began in the treetops. Dr. Burnham’s research focuses on sickle-clawed, birdlike raptors called dromaeosaurs, a group that includes Velociraptor and Microraptor. This bizarre group tells a story of a transition from tree-dwelling forms, such as Microraptor, to ground runners such as Velociraptor and Bambiraptor. This group is considered part of the lineage leading to modern birds and therefore important to our understanding the evolution of flight. More recently, again in conjunction with collaborators from KU and China, the discovery of the venomous attributes of another dromaeosaur, Sinornithosaurus, has added another intriguing page to their paleoecology.

For information about specimens in the collection, contact us.

Vertebrate Paleontology at a Glance

(Fossil Fishes, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals)
Established: 1890
Collection Strengths: 150,000 specimens
Research Strengths:
Paleozoic and Mesozoic fishes, Paleozoic tetrapods, Mesozoic marine vertebrates, Cenozoic small mammals and Natural Trap Cave fauna
Collection Manager(s):
Desui Miao 785.864.3317
Preparator(s):
David Burnham 785.864.3917