JP Zermeno


J.P. Zermeno
Research Associate

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Research Interests

X-rays have been used on dental structures for over 100 years, but only recently applied to the study of dental microstructure. Recent advances in imaging technologies offer a nondestructive and precise approach to the study of extant and extinct dental tissues. Micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) data collected by synchrotron particle accelerator at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility reaches voxel resolutions at a sub-micron level, facilitating the study of the cellular trails (enamel prisms) of enamel secreting cells (ameloblasts).

My interests lie in the geometric shape of enamel prisms from the enamel dentine junction to the enamel surface. Several theories attempt to explain the shape of enamel prisms but often contradict each other and are based in 2-dimensional analysis. Micro-CT offers a means to study these complex cellular trails in 3-dimensions.   A firm understanding of enamel prisms would give insight on primate development, life history, and the biological process of enamel secretion.

Current Research

I am currently working on the full segmentation of Pan troglodytes, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens enamel prisms from synchrotron data sets.  My work also includes virtual segmentation of hominoid teeth for enamel thickness quantification.

Past Research

I have also conducted research in endurance running and comparative morphology of the hand under Dr. Daniel Lieberman and Dr. Campbell Rolian, respectively. During my investigation of endurance running I compared the effects of the arm on head stabilization. With Dr. Rolian, the effect of digit size/shape on digit biomechanics during Oldowan manipulative tasks was tested and showed evolutionary advantage for habitual tool use in the hands of Homo compared to Pan- or australopithecine-like hands. In addition, I have worked in Dr. Marc Hauser's Cognitive Evolution Lab examining complex pattern comprehension of artificial grammars in Cotton-top tamarins. Following this research, I spent a month in Puerto Rico performing fieldwork on free-ranging Rhesus macaques investigating how primitive social evaluation mechanisms are employed to identify competitors in natural and atypical foraging contexts.