Dr Blake Dickson

Dr Blake Dickson


Ph.D 2020 - Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

M.Sc 2020 - Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

B.Sc Biological Sciences (Honours class 1) 2013,  University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 

Medicine & Health
School of Biomedical Sciences

I grew up in Sydney and studied Biological Sciences at UNSW. On graduating with First Class honours I moved to the US to get my PhD at Harvard University in the Museum of Comparative Zoology where I studied the functional evolution of tetrapods across the water-land transition and developing methods and adaptive landscape analyses. I continued my research at Duke University in the Animal Locomotion Lab to study the functional anatomy and biomechanics of primates. On returning to UNSW I am now a Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy where I teach subjects in Functional Anatomy and Biomechanics and continue my research interests in functional morphology.

Wallace Wurth Building
  • Journal articles | 2023
    Tseng ZJ; Garcia-Lara S; Flynn JJ; Holmes E; Rowe TB; Dickson BV, 2023, 'A switch in jaw form-function coupling during the evolution of mammals', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 378, http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2022.0091
    Journal articles | 2021
    Dickson BV; Clack JA; Smithson TR; Pierce SE, 2021, 'Functional adaptive landscapes predict terrestrial capacity at the origin of limbs', Nature, 589, pp. 242 - 245, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2974-5
    Journal articles | 2021
    Jones KE; Dickson BV; Angielczyk KD; Pierce SE, 2021, 'Adaptive landscapes challenge the “lateral-to-sagittal” paradigm for mammalian vertebral evolution', Current Biology, 31, pp. 1883 - 1892.e7, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.02.009
    Journal articles | 2020
    Hedrick BP; Dickson BV; Dumont ER; Pierce SE, 2020, 'The evolutionary diversity of locomotor innovation in rodents is not linked to proximal limb morphology', Scientific Reports, 10, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-57144-w
    Journal articles | 2020
    Sansalone G; Castiglione S; Raia P; Archer M; Dickson B; Hand S; Piras P; Profico A; Wroe S, 2020, 'Decoupling Functional and Morphological Convergence, the Study Case of Fossorial Mammalia', Frontiers in Earth Science, 8, http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/feart.2020.00112
    Journal articles | 2019
    Dickson BV; Pierce SE, 2019, 'Functional performance of turtle humerus shape across an ecological adaptive landscape', Evolution, 73, pp. 1265 - 1277, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/evo.13747
    Journal articles | 2019
    Dickson BV; Pierce SE, 2019, 'How (and why) fins turn into limbs: Insights from anglerfish', Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 109, pp. 87 - 103, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1755691018000415
    Journal articles | 2018
    Daza JD; Bauer AM; Stanley EL; Bolet A; Dickson B; Losos JB, 2018, 'An Enigmatic Miniaturized and Attenuate Whole Lizard from the Mid-Cretaceous Amber of Myanmar', Breviora, 563, pp. 1 - 1, http://dx.doi.org/10.3099/mcz49.1
    Journal articles | 2017
    Dickson BV; Sherratt E; Losos JB; Pierce SE, 2017, 'Semicircular canals in Anolis lizards: Ecomorphological convergence and ecomorph affinities of fossil species', Royal Society Open Science, 4, http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170058
  • Preprints | 2022
    Tseng J; Garcia-Lara S; Flynn J; Holmes E; Rowe T; Dickson B, 2022, A switch in jaw form-function coupling during the evolution of mammals, , http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2022.10.06.511001
    Preprints | 2017
    Dickson B; Sherratt E; Losos J; Pierce S, 2017, Semicircular canals inAnolislizards: ecomorphological convergence and ecomorph affinities of fossil species, , http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/121525

  • 2022, Leakey Foundation Research Grant ($6600)
  • 2022, Duke Lemur Center Director’s Fund ($6500)
  • 2022, Duke ASC Faculty Research Grant ($4900)
  • 2019 Gans Collections and Charitable Fund travel grant ($1500)
  • 2019 Robert A. Chapman Fellowship ($2000)
  • 2018 Robert A. Chapman Fellowship ($2000)

I am interested in the evolution of biomechanical traits and how they can be used to understand adaptions of extant and fossil animals. How well are musculoskeletal traits adapted to the requirements of a niche, and how do trade-offs drive maladaptation? In his research Blake integrates methods from comparative anatomy, biomechanics and evolutionary modeling such as Geometric Morphometrics, Finite Element Analyses, Kinematics and Kinetics, and Adaptive Landscape analyses. 

Current research projects include:

  • Functional morphology of primate long bones
  • Ontogenetic changes in humerus morphology as predictors of terrestrial adaptation in Early amphibians
  • Evolution of swimming adaptations in penguins and other secondarily aquatic tetrapods
  • Morphoscape: An R package for the implementation and visualisation of adaptive landscape analyses.
  • AlignR: An R package for manual, supervised, and fully automatic landmark digitization of 3D objects.