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Vertebrate paleontology

Integrating experimental studies of biomechanics with studies of fossil taxa can reveal the steps through which major transitions in morphology and function unfolded (Blob 2006; Carrano etal. 2006).  I have used data from our bone loading experiments to develop a computational model of limb bone stresses through the evolution of upright posture in the therapsid ancestors of mammals (Blob 2001).  Results showed that the use of a wide range of limb postures was possible for these taxa, indicating that this evolutionary transition may have involved a ‘generalist’ stage between more specialized extremes.  I also examined the ontogenetic allometry of limb bone proportions in fossil therapsids to test correlations between the evolution of bone growth patterns and the evolution of endothermy in the ancestors of mammals (Blob 2006). 

Other paleontological work has documented faunas and biases in the fossil record,  This has included taphonomic studies of Cretaceous faunas in Montana, evaluating how preservation biases affect paleoecological comparisons (Blob and Fiorillo 1996; Blob 1997; Blob and Badgley 2007).  These studies led to the discovery of a new species of fossil amphibian (Blob et al. 2001; Gardner et al. 2010).