Darin A. Croft, PHD
Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy
My research spans the fields of alpha taxonomy, phylogenetics, paleoecology, and macroecology. As a mammalian paleontologist, I am primarily interested in the evolution of mammals and mammal communities over the past 65 million years (the Cenozoic Era). I am currently focused on three areas: evolution and adaptation within the Notoungulata (an extinct mammal group), ecology and paleobiology of mammal communities on large islands, and new South American fossil localities in Chile and Bolivia.
Once South America became geographically (and biotically) separated from other continents, the mammals on South America evolved in isolation, mixing little with more familiar mammal groups on other continents. These endemic South American mammals have traditionally been divided into six or seven major groups, only two of which have living representatives. The most diverse extinct group is the Notoungulata, a collection of rat-sized to rhino-sized hoofed, plant-eating mammals. I am particularly interested in notoungulates because they represent a completely separate radiation of mammals into the herbivore niche. As such, they demonstrate adaptations for herbivory that are sometimes unique and sometimes convergent compared to those exhibited by herbivorous mammals living today. My current research on the typothere notoungulates (the generally smaller-bodied half of the notoungulate family tree) involves documenting new species, refining taxonomy and phylogenetic relationships, and investigating the paleobiology (e.g., diet, locomotion) of these animals.
Key Words: fossils, mammals, South America, paleoecology, systematics, functional morphology
Last Updated 09/20/11