Paul M. Gignac, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Anatomy
Dr. Gignac is an evolutionary biomechanist and vertebrate paleontologist. His focus is on how highly integrated phenotypes, which must work together to execute their function, are capable of evolutionary changes without compromising that function. To address this longstanding issue, he studies the musculoskeletal and dental function of the diverse feeding systems of reptiles in developmental and evolutionary contexts.
Crocodilians are the largest reptilian predators alive today with some undergoing up to a 15,000-fold increase in body mass during their development. In addition, many taxa can generate thousands of pounds of bite force as adults, far eclipsing the known capacities of other living predators. How they accomplish this anatomically is not well understood. Dr. Gignac’s research addresses the musculoskeletal biomechanics of force generation, jaw kinematics, and muscle physiology among crocodilians through anatomical dissection, mathematical modeling, comparative methods, and histochemical techniques to better understand how these systems change during feeding niche shifts and at cladogenic events. He pairs these data with studies of crocodilian dental anatomy using geometric morphometrics and finite element analyses to understand how the major anatomical modules of the vertebrate feeding system (cranial skeleton, jaw musculature, and dentition) interact to facilitate prey capture and subjugation. Understanding how these components function in living systems, Dr. Gignac then turns to the fossil record with living crocodilians as a model system to address the paleobiology and feeding biomechanics of their fossil relatives as well as their evolutionary cousins, non-avian theropod dinosaurs.
Ph.D. (Biological Science)
Florida State University
B.S. (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
University of Connecticut
Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences (OSU-CHS), Tulsa, OK
Affiliated Research Associate in Vertebrate Paleontology, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Norman, OK
Research Associate in Vertebrate Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York
Research Associate in Geology, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois
Instructor of Research for Anatomical Sciences, Department of Anatomy, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY
2009–present Sigma Xi, The Research Society
2004–present Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
2003–present Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
2004–present American Association for the Advancement of Science
Gignac, P. M. and S. E. Santana. In press. “A bigger picture: organismal function at the nexus of development, ecology, and evolution.” Integrative and Comparative Biology (Introduction to the 2016 SICB Symposium, scheduled for June 2016 print date).
Gignac, P. M. and H. D. O’Brien. 2016. “Suchian feeding success at the interface of ontogeny and macroevolution.” Integrative and Comparative Biology (Article based on the 2016 SICB Symposium, published online June 1, 2016). [doi: 10.1093/icb/icw041]
Gignac, P. M., N. J. Kley, J. A. Clarke, M. W. Colbert, A. C. Morhardt, D. Cerio, I. N. Cost, P. G. Cox, J. D. Daza, C. M. Early, M. S. Echols, R. M. Henkelman, A. N. Herdina, C. M. Holliday, Z. Li, K. Mahlow, S. Merchant, J. Müller, C. P. Orsbon, D. J. Paluh, M. L. Thies, H. P. Tsai, and L. M. Witmer. 2016. “Diffusible iodine-based contrast-enhanced computed tomography (diceCT): an emerging tool for rapid, high-resolution, 3-D imaging of metazoan soft tissues.” Journal of Anatomy, 228: 889–909. [doi: 10.1111/joa.12449]
Gignac, P. M. and G. M. Erickson. 2016. “Ontogenetic bite-force modeling of Alligator mississippiensis: Implications for dietary transitions in a large-bodied vertebrate and the evolution of crocodylian feeding.” Journal of Zoology (Early View, online June 1, 2016). [doi:10.1111/jzo.12349]
Hughes, D. F., P. M. Gignac, E. M. Walker, A. Martinez, K. Negishi, C. S. Lieb, E. Greenbaum, and A. M. Khan. 2016. “Rescuing perishable neuroanatomical information from a threatened biodiversity hotspot: Remote field methods for brain tissue preservation validated by semi-quantitative cytoarchitectonic analysis, immunohistochemistry, and iodine-enhanced X-ray microcomputed tomography.” PLOS One, 11: e0155824. [doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155824]
Gold, M. E. L., D. Shulz, M. Budassi, P. Vaska, P. M. Gignac, and M. A. Norell. 2016. “Flying starlings and PET lend insights on the evolution of volant dinosaurs.” Current Biology, 26: R265–R267 [doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.02.025]
O’Brien, H. D., P. M. Gignac, T. Hieronymus, and L. M. Witmer. 2016. “Post-natal growth of the cranial arteries of the giraffe (Artiodactyla: Giraffa camelopardalis).”PeerJ, 4:e1696. [doi: 10.7717/peerj.1696]
Gignac, P. M. and N. J. Kley. 2014. “Iodine-enhanced micro-CT imaging: methodological refinements for the study of soft-tissue anatomy of post-embryonic vertebrates.” Journal of Experimental Zoology (Mol. Dev. Evol.), 322B: 166–176. [doi: 10.1002/jez.b.22561]
Erickson, G. M., P. M. Gignac, S. A. Steppan, A. K. Lappin, B. D. Inouye, K. A. Vliet, J. A. Brueggen, G. J. W. Webb. 2012. “Insights into the ecology and evolutionary success of crocodilians revealed through bite-force and tooth-pressure experimentation.” PLoS ONE 7, e31781. [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031781]
Listen to Dr. Gignac and his colleagues talk about the Anatomy and Vertebrate Paleontology track on Tulsa’s KRMG, 102.3 FM.here
See Dr. Gignac in the field in, Expedition Alaska: Dinosaurs Film and Exhibit Preview
See Dr. Gignac in the news: here
Link here for the New York Times article on Dr. Gignac’s recent research.
Watch Dr. Gignac present on his research at the University of California at Berkeley.
Follow the entire OSU-CHS Vertebrate Paleontology Research Group on Twitter.