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King’s College Public Relations Office: (570) 208-5957
February 10, 2017 – Paleontologist Dr. Frank Varriale, assistant professor of biology at King’s College, was awarded the Alfred Romer Award from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology for his research that resulted in a key discovery about the evolution of chewing in horned dinosaurs (ceratopsians).
Specifically, Varriale studied the small pits and scratches found on teeth of the plant-eating dinosaur Leptoceratops. These features known as dental microwear are the result of chewing food. Varriale’s research was the first to identify the unique chewing style of this dinosaur. His research, titled “Dental microwear reveals mammal-like chewing in the neoceratopsian dinosaur ‘Leptoceratops gracilis,’” was published in July 2016 in the peer-reviewed journal “PeerJ.”
Varriale is a vertebrate paleontologist interested in the evolution of jaw mechanics in herbivorous dinosaurs. As part of his research, he has traveled to several national and international museums to examine ceratopsian teeth, including the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C.; Beijing Natural History Museum; Canadian Museum of Nature, the Mongolian Academy of Sciences in Ulaanbaatar; and the Palaeozoological Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.
A faculty member at King’s since 2012, Varriale teaches a variety of courses, including evolution and diversity, comparative vertebrate anatomy, Earth science, anatomy and physiology, and a new dinosaurs course for non-majors in spring 2017.
Prior to coming to King’s, Varriale served as an instructor at Rowan University and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he also earned his doctorate at the university’s Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution. He earned his master’s degree in paleontology at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and bachelor’s degree in zoology at the State University of New York at Oswego.
Dr. Frank Varriale