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Nick Crumpton wins MSc Project Prize, May 2010

Nick Crumpton, who completed the MSc in Palaeobiology at Bristol in 2009, has just won the Geologists' Association Prize for the best MSc project in an earth sciences subject in the UK. In the picture below, GA President, Dr Danielle Schreve, gives Nick his award of a certificate and a cheque for 1000.

Nick's prize-winning project was entitled A quantitative microwear analysis of insectivorous bats, with implications for the dietary preferences of early mammals. He used state of the art microscopy techniques to statistically quantify minute patterns of wear on living bat teeth generated by feed on different food stuffs such as moths and worms. These patterns were compared to the teeth of the early mammals Morganucodon and Kuehneotherium and used to attribute dietary preferences to the fossils. Although similar in size, Morganucodon appeared to feed on harder foodstuffs such as moths and perhaps beetles, whilst Kuehneotherium preferred softer prey such as worms. The results tie in with on going early mammal research in the department, which suggests that biomechanically the jaws of Morganucodon are more robust, and capable of generating and withstanding higher bite forces.

Three-dimensional reconstruction of the tooth of the basal mammal Morganucodon, created from high-resolution synchrotron radiation x-ray microtomography (SRXTM). The tooth is shown in lateral (left) and medial (right) views, and the tooth wear facet is shown in pink.

Nick's project was co-supervised by Dr Emily Rayfield, Dr Pam Gill and Professor Gareth Jones of Bristol, and Dr Mark Purnell of the University of Leicester. Nick is now a PhD student in the Department of Zoology, Cambridge University, where he continues to work on fossil mammals with his supervisor Dr Rob Asher.

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