Skull, recent: B 18478 European Beaver (Castor fiber) ♀ Germany: Saxony, (B 169) Tiefenau Wülknitz, 04.04.1994



Diverse research topics and local faunistic studies

Work based on material in the collection in Dresden as well as on the local fauna of Saxony include some projects like the following:

  • geographic variation in skull morphology of different species of shrews (morphometric studies)
  •  ecology of small mammals in different regions at different altitudes of Sxony
  • Some aspects of Pleistocene mammals (mainly small mammals)
  • distribution of mammals in the city of Dresden

Research interests and research activities involving students

I am principally interested in mammalian morphology, bascic biomechanics, diversity, phylogeny, and the structure and causes of mammalian radiations. My research has been – and still is – mainly focused on:

Biology of fossil mammals, carnivora and paroxyclaenidae – Taxonomic, phylogenetic and biomechanic aspects

Work on the carnivores from Sandelzhausen (Miocene, Germany) in cooperation with D. NAGEL, Vienna, and M. MORLO, and T. LEHMANN, Frankfurt)

Investigations on tooth enamel, microwear and use of teeth

Overall I try to understand which factors caused the evolutionary changes visible in the structure of tooth enamel. and to interpret the funciton of the visible structures. This implies trying to to understand what tensile stresses occur during mastication within the enamel.

My work on carnivores had shown that tensile stresses are an important factor causing changes in the tooth enamel structure. And I think that complex arrangement of different structural features in the enamel within a single teeth as well as within dentitions can only be better explained if the biomechanic constraints are better understood. I would like to address this issue by mathematical modeling using finite elements and to consider different surface characters, and morphological shapes of the teeth in this respect. Tooth microwear of Recent and fossil beavers.

Work on some recent species with ecological, craniometric, biogeographic aspects

Work on wildcats in Thuringia and Saxony, but also craniometric projects on other mammalian species e.g. Cricetus cricetus

Phylogeny and taxonomy of tertiary beavers (Rodentia: Castoridae)

Work so far wa concerned the taxonomic status of some genera and their ecology and a general phylogeny of beavers. The main focus is to understand the evolution of this taxonomically difficult group of rodents. It seems that the exact study and docomentation of variability within populations or fossil beavers from one site is an important factor to understand the evolution. Studies focused on Steneofiber from the early Miocene, in Germany as well as other species in Europe and North America (in previous and current cooperation with T. MÖRS, Stockholm, H. WAGNER; San Diego, T. FREMD, Oregon, M. RUMMEL, Augsburg).

My goal is to revise the taxonomy and systematics of Miocene beavers in Europe and America and to understand their phylogenetic relationship using modern phylogenetic analysis. I want to compare the mode, course and speed of evolution in European and American beavers in order to better understand what might drive mammalian radiations. I am also interested to differentiate the functional morphology and ecology of the different species in a fairly conservative group. I also work on biomechanic aspets of chewing in cooperation with Prof. Dr. WITZEL, Bochum.