Andrew Bolton

MSc Student
Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand


Andrew attained a BSc. in Life and Environmental Sciences from the University of Johannesburg, a BSc. honours degree in Palaeontology from the University of the Witwatersrand, and he is currently pursuing a Masters in palaeontology there. Andrew’s previous research focused on digitally segmenting and identifying theropod remains, and his current research involves using 3D models and finite element analysis software to determine the effectiveness of pachyostosed dinocephalian skull models in intraspecific head-butting combat.


Therapsid Evolution, Biomechanics

Fields of study

Dinocephalians were a group of therapsids that dominated carnivorous and herbivorous niches of terrestrial ecosystems in the middle Permian. Species within this clade often have skulls with considerable pachyostosis (overly thickened bones) and cranial ornamentation (horns and bosses). This morphology has been interpreted as evidence for head-butting. I intend to perform finite element analyses on 3D models of dinocephalian crania to address whether these skulls had the structural integrity necessary to withstand the stresses and strains involved in head-butting combat, as this research may have profound implications for the behavioural complexity of such an early therapsid group, and may provide evidence of gregariousness that pre-dates other instances in tetrapods by hundreds of millions of years.

Awards and recognition

  • Postgraduate Merit Award
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