Anne-Claire Fabre was just awarded a prestigeous Marie-Curie postdoctoral fellowship. She will be joining the lab starting the 17th of January 2016. She will be working on a project entitled ’Evolutionary Trends And GRasping form and function In Primates and other tetrapod lineages’. Please find the abstract of the project below.
Human beings have been credited with unparalleled capabilities for digital prehension grasping. Fine prehensile activities are thought to be uniquely associated with the evolution of human hands and with tool-making and tool-use in the earliest humans. However, given the single evolutionary origin of humans and the unique anatomical features they possess, quantitative tests of evolutionary scenarios remain difficult. Moreover, functional inferences based on fragmentary fossil material are often problematic. However, grasping behaviour is widespread among tetrapods and a role for grasping ability in the evolutionary success of many tetrapod lineages has been suggested thus providing an excellent test case for hypothesis on the origin of manipulation and grasping. The propensity to grasp, and the anatomical characteristics that underlie it, appear in all of the major groups of tetrapods. Although some features are common to all tetrapods, such as well-defined digits and digital musculature, other features, such as opposable digits and tendon configurations, appear to have evolved independently in many lineages. Although recent papers have reviewed the state of the art on grasping, a holistic study including the whole forelimb and its behavioural context in locomotion and manipulation is currently lacking. The goal of the present project is to provide an integrative approach that examines the occurrence of grasping behavior, the anatomy and function of the forelimb, and the evolution of grasping across three major tetrapod clades that show manual grasping abilities: mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Within each clade I will compare and contrast the use of the forelimb, its anatomy, and its function in both arboreal and terrestrial animals to test the hypothesis of an arboreal origin of fine manipulative capacities. I will study the use of the hand and the forelimb in the context of locomotion and object/food manipulation to understand the relations between anatomy, function and ecology. To do so, I will use state-of-the-art approaches to quantify the anatomy (µCT scanning, 3D geometric morphometrics), the function (pressure and force measurements, 3D kinematics and biomechanical models), and the evolution of these traits in an explicit phylogenetic context.