Michael Burns, Ph.D.

Dr. Michael Burns


Recent Publications

I am a vertebrate anatomist and paleontologist. My particular research interests include the histology of hard tissues, particularly those making up dermal armor, and the application of histological techniques to problems in vertebrate paleontology. Some specific current projects that would be appropriate for undergraduate research include quantitatively examining trace fossils from the Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site (http://www.gsa.state.al.us/gsa/minkin.html). This is one of the most important sites for vertebrate trackway fossils on earth and is the only protected fossil site in the state of Alabama. It preserves trackways from invertebrates, amphibians, and reptiles, and even traces from fish fins. Projects on this site might include examining trackways quantitatively to either (1) differentiate species represented at the site or (2) study the locomotor habits of these extinct animals. I am also interested in several other potential projects utilizing morphometric techniques, including analyzing fossilized tiger shark teeth to determine how many species are represented at a specific site, and looking at modern snub-nosed darters to link gut contents to morphological differences in their jaws. Projects more appropriate for graduate level work include the histological examination of fossil vertebrates and I am very open to almost any research proposal dealing with this topic. In the past, I have largely worked on armored dinosaurs and, more generally, the histology of armor and the dermal skeleton in tetrapods, both modern and extinct. I am currently working on determining the nature/etiology of fused vertebrae in mosasaurs, an extinct group of large-bodied, predatory marine reptiles. I hope to add to our understanding of this phenomenon by examining the microstructure of the preserved hard tissue.

Courses Taught

- Introductory Biology I (BY 101)
- Human Anatomy and Physiology I (BY 263)
- Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy (BY 320)
- Introduction to Research in Biology (BY 370)

Contact Information
- Office: 128 F martin Hall
- Phone: 256-782-5036
- email: mburns3@jsu.edu