Timothy J. Gaudin
Ph.D. 1993. Organismal Biology & Anatomy,
University of Chicago.
Thesis Title: The Phylogeny of the Tardigrada
(Mammalia, Xenarthra) and the Evolution of
Locomotor Function in the Xenarthra.
B.S. 1987. Zoology, University of Georgia.
My primary research interests lie in the field of vertebrate
systematics and morphological evolution. Although in the past I have worked
on such diverse vertebrate taxa as chondrichthyan fish (i.e., the
cartilaginous fishes, including the living sharks and rays) and synapsid
(i.e., "mammal-like") reptiles, my current research focuses on the
paleobiology, evolutionary relationships, diversity, functional morphology,
and adaptive radiation of mammals. Questions that figure importantly in my
research include: what is the historical pattern of diversification of
mammalian orders?, and, how can one use functional and systematic analyses
in combination to understand anatomical adaptations in mammalian lineages?
I have been particularly concerned in my research with the
mammalian order Xenarthra (including the living Neotropical sloths,
anteaters, and armadillos). This group, though small in terms of the number
of living species, is tremendously diverse in terms of its morphological
and ecological variability, and has an extraordinarily rich fossil history.
Its membership includes some of the most bizarre mammmals known; e.g.,
armored armadillos and glyptodonts (the latter an extinct group with
members the size of a Volkswagen wielding a spiked, club-like defensive
tail); toothless anteaters with enormously elongate sticky tongues; and
sluggish, hairy, herbivorous sloths, some small like living tree sloths
(which spend their days suspended beneath tree branches), others (extinct
"ground sloths") the size of modern-day elephants. My past work on this
group has involved systematic investigations into the evolutionary
relationships among living and extinct sloths and the relationships of the
Xenarthra as a whole to other orders of mammals (in particular the
pangolins or scaly anteaters, order Pholidota), as well as paleontological
studies of various fossil sloths and functional investigations of the
vertebral column and vertebral musculature of armadillos. Research into
these areas continues in my laboratory.
In addition, I have recently embarked upon a research program
investigating the diversity of living mammals in the southeastern Tennessee
area. The purpose of this research is two-fold: 1) to provide basic
information on local mammalian diversity, information sorely lacking in
this part of the country; and, 2) to augment the collections of the UTC
Natural History Museum, in furtherance of its educational, research, and
Finally, I am currently working on a project involving the recovery
and analysis of Late Pleistocene vertebrate faunas from Lookout Mountain,
Tennessee. This study should yield important insights into the historical
biodiversity and biogeography of southeastern Tennessee vertebrates.