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Research Fellows Directory

Hongyu Yi

Dr Hongyu Yi

Research Fellow


University of Edinburgh

Research summary

I am an evolutionary biologist working on computer modeling of sensory organs among reptiles. Sensory organs are the tools for animals to interact with the environment; by looking at the evolution of eyes, noses and ears, I ask questions (and solve some of them) about how adaption to specific environments shapes new branches on the tree of life. My current work on the ear of snakes shows that shape of their inner-ear canals indicates locomotion, which might be a key to the mystery origin of snakes: why they lost their legs and how early fossil snakes might have moved with no or vestigial legs.

To study the shape of inner ears I use powerful X-rays to build virtue models of the canals that pierce through skull bones. X-ray CT scanning is part of my interest in emerging quantitative methods in the study of morphology, including virtue model building, landmark-based geometric morphometrics and principal component analysis. I experiment with X-ray parameters to increase image qualities in CT scanning and write scraps of functions in R to streamline the process of estimating missing landmarks for multiple specimens.

Grants awarded

A modern "toolkit" for analyzing evolution of functional traits

Scheme: Newton International Fellowships

Dates: May 2014 - May 2016

Value: £66,000