skip to primary navigation skip to content

SPRI Review 1996: Research Overviews

Research Overviews

Polar Biology

Dr Elizabeth Cruwys

Research in polar biology continued in three main areas during the year. First, the final results of data collected during a field trip to the Antarctic in 1993-94 were published in four papers co-authored by Dr Elizabeth Cruwys and Dr Pamela Davis. Second, research continued into the numerical taxonomy of pinnipeds in Dr Cruwys' on-going project with Dr Adrian Friday at the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge. The project aims to use craniological and dental measurements to assess taxonomic relationships between and within the Otariidae and the Phocidae and to compare resulting cladograms with results using DNA analysis. One paper on comparative importance of condylobasal lengths and other craniometric characters in 30 species of seal was published.

Third, research continued into the elemental structure of the teeth of seals from the Antarctic in a collaborative project with Ken Robinson and Ian Boyd at the British Antarctic Survey. The project is working to develop a method to assess the calcium and phosphorus content in the incremental growth bands of pinniped teeth using energy-dispersive x-ray analysis. It is anticipated the research will elucidate not only differences within and between the chemical and physical structure of mammalian dental tissues, but will allow conclusions to be drawn regarding the uptake of minerals from the diet; the environmental conditions, particularly in relations to diet, under which mineralisation occurs; variation in species signatures in calcium and phosphorus ratios; and an indication of the selective mechanisms that determine this variation in mineral ratios between the species.

Dr Cruwys co-wrote three books during the year, including one entitled Scottish seals, which was published by Scottish Natural Heritage. She also lectured on marine biology, pollution, and ecology on four tourist cruises in the Antarctic. She participated in conferences on electron microscopy at the University of Birmingham and Brunel University.