Jack Tseng PhD

Jack Tseng

Jack Tseng

Assistant Professor

Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences

Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Specialty/Research Focus

Function and Structure

Contact Information
Room 4206
955 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
Phone: 716-829-2752
Fax: 716-829-2725

Professional Summary:

I am an integrative and evolutionary biologist, and my research focuses on the quantitative and functional anatomy and evolution of the mammalian craniodental system.

One of the oldest endeavors in the study of gross anatomy is the exploration of the link between musculoskeletal structure and function. For centuries, scientists and artists alike have been digging into anatomical systems to draw connections between animal forms and the functional adaptations that allow some species to out-compete and out-survive others. Scientists’ and physicians’ understanding of current structure-function relationships can be improved by incorporating the long-term, evolutionary histories of anatomical systems.

Research in my laboratory is focused on the macroevolutionary-scale patterns of structure-function relationships in mammals and other vertebrate groups. My model system of choice is the skull of carnivoramorphan mammals (dogs, cats, bears, hyenas and their living and extinct relatives). Despite the suggestion of a meat-eating lifestyle implied by the name of this mammal group, living carnivoramorphan species include not only specialists of vertebrate soft tissues, but others that are adapted to feed on insects, plants, fruits--or even bones. Projects in my lab include analysis of important variables such as diet, evolutionary relationships and non-masticatory functional constraints and their interplay on the structure and function of the skull as a feeding tool. I use methodologies such as landmark-based shape analysis (geometric morphometrics), model-based assessments of feeding performance (finite element analysis) as well as experiment-based model validation approaches and field-based and collection-based research on extinct mammal groups.

I also use theoretical modeling approaches based on computed tomography (CT) to test functional optimality in skull structures of carnivoramorphans and primates (including humans). My goal is to develop a prototyping approach to better understand structure-function patterns of musculoskeletal systems. This will lead, eventually, to novel biomedical devices such as body implants and replacement body parts (e.g., artificial limbs) that benefit from a design approach informed by evolution.

My lab is currently at full capacity for 2019-2020. Students interested in either the PhD or Master's programs are encouraged to check back in early 2020 for potential openings.

Education and Training:

  • PhD, Integrative and Evolutionary Biology, University of Southern California (2011)
  • BA, Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, High Honors (2004)


  • Assistant Professor, Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, University at Buffalo (2016-present)
  • Post Doctoral Fellow, Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History (2013–2016)
  • Fulbright Fellow, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, China (2008–2009)

Awards and Honors:

  • UB Exceptional Scholar: Young Investigator Award (2018)
  • Alfred Sherwood Romer Prize (2012)
  • William E. Trusten Award (2012)
  • Joseph LeConte Award (2005)

Research Expertise:

  • Computed Tomography Image Analysis
  • Evolutionary History of Life
  • Finite Element Modeling and Analysis
  • Functional Anatomy of the Masticatory System
  • Geometric Morphometrics Analysis
  • Theoretical Morphology
  • Vertebrate Paleontology

Grants and Sponsored Research:

  • August 2013–July 2017
    An Integrated Approach to Understanding Evolutionary Transformations in Craniodental and Locomotor Specializations
    National Science Foundation
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • April 2009–November 2011
    Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant
    National Science Foundation
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • August 2007–August 2011
    Graduate Research Fellowship
    National Science Foundation
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • December 2009–December 2009
    Collection Study Grant
    American Museum of Natural History
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • June 2009–July 2009
    Young Explorers Grant
    National Geographic Society
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • June 2009–July 2009
    Patterson Memorial Grant
    Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • June 2009–July 2009
    Student Research Grant
    Evolving Earth Foundation
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • June 2009–July 2009
    Student Research Grant
    Geological Society of America
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • August 2008–June 2009
    United States Fulbright Grant
    United States Fulbright Program
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • May 2007–May 2008
    Grant-in-aid of Research
    American Society of Mammalogists
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • June 2007–August 2007
    East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute Fellowship
    National Science Foundation
    Role: Principal Investigator
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Journal Articles:

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Professional Memberships:

  • Geological Society of America (2008–present)
  • Palaeontological Association (2008–2009)
  • American Society of Mammalogists (2006–present)
  • Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2004–present)
  • Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (2004–present)


  • "Becoming a bone-cracker: integrative paleobiology at the crossroads of morphology, materials, and mechanics" Department Seminar, University of California, Department of Integrative Biology (2019)
  • "Fossil dogs and the search for evolutionary optimality" Darwin Conversations Speaker Series, University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History (2017)
  • "Functional morphology in paleontology" BridgeUp STEM Program for High School Girls, AMNH (2016)
  • "Supermodels and paleodiets: reconstructing feeding adaptations of extinct mammalian predators using computer simulations" Stockton University (2016)
  • "Paleontology: A history of life written in stone" Short Course in Evolution, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (2016)
  • "CT-based quantitative and functional anatomy of the carnivoran skull" New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (2016)
  • "Meet the Scientist: Jack Tseng" American Museum of Natural History, Discovery Room (2016)
  • "Form, Function, and Fieldwork: Carnivoramorpha as models in functional anatomy and evolutionary research" Johns Hopkins University (2015)
  • "Introduction to the 3-D carnivoramorphan poster symposium: tools of the trade in 3-D imaging based analyses of vertebrate structures" Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2015)
  • "Quantifying skull form-function relationships through time using biological and engineering methods" University at Buffalo (2015)
  • "Climbing, crossing, crunching: intra- and inter-continental dispersals of Neogene carnivorans and their paleobiogeographic and paleoecological significance" Vanderbilt University (2015)
  • "From killer bites to kilo-bytes: integrative research methods and paleontological renaissance in the digital age of mammals" La Brea Tar Pits and Museum (2015)
  • "Hyenas and vanishing endemism in the Tibetan Plateau fossil record" North East Regional Vertebrate Evolution Symposium (2015)
  • "Biting through time: craniodental functional morphology and macroevolution in mammalian carnivores" University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2015)
  • "Biting through time: Integrative analyses and evolutionary functional morphology of carnivoran feeding systems" University of Michigan, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (2015)
  • "Climbing, crossing, crunching: intra- and inter-continental dispersals of Neogene carnivorans and their paleobiogeographic and paleoecological significance" University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology (2015)
  • "Kicking, biting, and scheming: Integrative analyses of mammalian predator evolution" Academic Senate Meeting, American Museum of Natural History (2015)
  • "New approaches to characterizing feeding specialization and reconstructing its evolutionary pathways based on comparative biomechanics of living and fossil carnivorous mammals" Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2014)
  • "The Pliocene Tibetan Plateau as a training ground for cold environment adaptation and origin of Holarctic megafauna" Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2014)
  • "Bone: what is it good for? The search for ecological imprints in the carnivoran skull" North East Regional Vertebrate Evolution Symposium (2014)
  • "A new sucker (Teleostei, Catostomidae) from the Eocene Kishenehn Formation of Montana and the systematic position of Amyzon" Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2013)
  • "Form Fitting Function: Taking a bite at reconstructing extinct predator ecomorphology using an integrated approach" University of Regina (2013)
  • "From the mountaintop to the laptop: Palaeontology at the crossroads of knowledge" Royal Saskatchewan Museum (2013)
  • "Mio-Pliocene carnivorans from western Tibet and the earliest record of pantherine felids." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2013)
  • "Profiling the durophage: convergent skull shape evolution between bone and bamboo specialists." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2013)
  • "Hyenas that never were: exploring skull form-function mapping with theoretical morphology" North East Regional Vertebrate Evolution Symposium (2013)
  • "Body shape differences between North American and Asian fossil catostomids and ontogenetic change in early cypriniforms." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2012)
  • "Convergent evolution and its functional mechanisms: a case study of bone-crackers." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2012)
  • "Determining the eruption rate and developmental time for adult canines in the saber-tooth cat, Smilodon fatalis, using microCT and stable isotopes." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2011)
  • "Tyrants of the Cenozoic: Evolution of bone-crushing hyenas and dogs" Royal Tyrrell Museum Speaker Series (2011)
  • "Did the megafauna originate from Tibet? Cold-adapted Pliocene fauna from Zanda Basin suggests origin of Ice Age megaherbivores in high plateau." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2010)
  • "Evolution of stress channeling mechanism in the skulls of hyenas: finite element analysis of key ecomorphologies." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2010)
  • "The first upper dentition of the sabertoothed Barbourofelis whitfordi (Nimravidae, Carnivora)." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2009)
  • "Bone-cracking capability in the skull of Dinocrocuta gigantea (Carnivora, Mammalia) reveals biomechanical convergence between hyaenids and percrocutids." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2008)
  • "Diving mechanics of the extinct Hesperornithiformes: comparison to modern diving birds." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2008)
  • "2000000 BC: craniodental adaptation in the running hyena Chasmaporthetes lunensis" Biology Interdepartmental Graduate Symposium, University of Southern California (2008)
  • "Tough new world: discovery of an unusual immigrant mustelids with crushing dentition from the middle Miocene of coastal California." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2007)
  • "Qinghai-Tibet: a compilation" Research and Collections Seminar, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (2007)
  • "A new vertebrate fauna in late Pliocene of Kunlun Mountain Pass, northern Tibetan Plateau and its paleoenvironmental implications." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2006)
  • "Paleobiogeography of the genus Hyaenictitherium Kretzoi (Carnivora, Hyaenidae) and the first record of H. hyaenoides Zdansky in Inner Mongolia." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2006)
  • "Can modern heteromyid species be identified using only dental measurements? A test using extant species with implications for fossil identification." Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2005)
  • "Reciprocal illumination between quantitative and qualitative characters in understanding the systematic of fossil pocket mice (Rodentia: Heteromyidae)" Geological Society of America (2004)
  • "Quantitative and qualitative characters in the systematics of fossil pocket mice" Berkeley Biology Fellows Research Symposium (2004)
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Service Activities:

  • PAS Web Committee; Committee Member (2017–2021)
  • PAS Graduate Faculty Committee; Committee Member (2016–2021)
  • Scientific Director of PAS 3D Fabrication and Printing Laboratory; Director (2016–2021)
  • Professional Society Committee Member; Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Student and Postdoctoral Committee; Committee Member (2014–2016)
  • Technical Session Moderator; Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting; Moderator (2014)
  • Reviewer for Journal Articles; Anatomical Record, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Geosciences, Journal of Anatomy, Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, Journal of Mammalian Evolution, Journal of Paleontology, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Molecular Ecology, Naturwissenschaften, Paleobiology, Palaeontologia Electronica, PLOS ONE, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Quaternary International, Scientific Reports, Vertebrata PalAsiatica, Zoomorphology.; Ad Hoc Reviewer

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Contact Information

Room 4206
955 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
Phone: 716-829-2752
Fax: 716-829-2725