origin and evolution of life
DAVID POLLY Professor, Geological Sciences
Adjunct Professor, Departments of Biology and Anthropology | Director, Center for Biological Research Collections
Research Curator, IU Paleontology Collection | Affiliate Member, Integrated Program in the Environment
Research Associate, Department of Zoology, The Field Museum, Chicago | Shrock Professor of Sedimentary Geology
There has been a productive turnover in David
worked on dinosaur faunas from Antarctica for
Polly’s group in 2017. Wesley Vermillion finished
his undergraduate thesis at Eastern Washing-
his Master’s thesis on the effects of glacial-inter-
ton University, and Anne Longar, who measured
glacial cycles on evolutionary differentiation and
post-glacial differentiation in rodents using 3D
geographic distributions of painted turtles. Mi-
microCT scan data at University of Minnesota,
chael Smith finished his Ph.D. on the effects of
both joined our graduate program in the fall of
physiography on the distributions of mammals in
2017. North America, demonstrating that topographic
David himself is working on faunal changes and
and geological features contribute to continuity
in faunas despite turnover between glacial and interglacial
communities. And Blaire Hensley-Marschand completed
her Ph.D. on the Early Pleistocene mammalian faunas of the
Nihewan Basin in China, disproving the idea that climates in
north eastern Eurasia were harsher than in Africa because
of global cooling during the Quaternary. Ely Ricardo, who
adaptation of mammalian communities during
the Neogene to derive new proxies for paleoen-
vironments and to develop new ways of mea-
suring rates of adaptation, community restruc-
turing, and extinction relative to global-scale
changes in climate and environment. The focus
of this research has been Miocene Great Plains
environments as they transformed from forest-
ed riparian landscapes to open grasslands as a
result of global changes in atmospheric circula-
tion and regional changes driven by tectonic up-
lift in western North America. This research is
closely linked to IU’s new Prepared for Environ-
mental Change Grand Challenge initiative, which
will create two new faculty positions and several
postdoctoral opportunities in the Department of
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. David is serv-
ing as Associate Director of this initiative.

Lower jaw of Aelurodon mcgrewi, an extinct mem-
ber of the dog family from the early Miocene of
Nebraska. Polly Lab website:
http://mypage.iu.edu/~pdpolly/ 30 | hgr

In August 2017, David was invited to speak about
the mathematical and conceptual challenges
of quantifying evolutionary change at a com-
memorative conference at the Siberian Branch
of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosi-
birsk on the long-term genetic experiment con-
ducted there on domestication of foxes, which
uncovered a suite of unexpected correlations
between behavior and morphology.

David is also serving as the current President of
the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, which is
concerned among other things with the protec-
tion of vertebrate paleontological resources.

With the Society, David helped advocated suc-
cessfully for the establishment of Bears Ears
National Monument in southeastern Utah in
December, 2016. Bears Ears became one of
several national monuments that protect ver-
David Polly holding a domesticated fox at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in
Novosibirsk.The fox domestication experiment showed that features like behavior,
tail shape, ear shape, and coat color are genetically linked and occur in parallel with
the suite of features that distinguish domestic dogs from their wolf ancestors, a find-
ing that is consistent with correlated patterns evolution observed in the fossil record.

tebrate fossil sites and provide funding for field
research. One of the most important of the pa-
leontology-focused monuments is Grand Stair-
case-Escalante, also in southern Utah, which
has produced an incredible range of Mesozoic
research since it was created in 1996 that has
revolutionized our understanding of Late Creta-
ceous ecosystems. Two major monographs on
Grand Staircase paleontology have been pub-
lished by IU Press.

In December 2017, the White House announced
that it would reduce the boundaries of both
monuments, thus removing literally hundreds
of scientifically important paleo localities from
the protection and the funding associated with
monument status. The Society, along with part-
ner organizations, has filed lawsuits to reverse
this decision because of its impact on science.

Read a recent article
in Science about these
lawsuits Map of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah summa-
rizing its vertebrate paleontological resources. The Kaiparowits Plateau region
contains one of the most scientifically important records of the Late Cretaceous in
the world.

hgr | 31