Emily Buchholtz

Gordon P. Lang and Althea P. Lang ‘26 Professor Emerita of Biological Sciences

Vertebrate paleontologist with interests at the interface of morphology, evolution, and development.

My interests lie in patterns of morphological diversity and how they arise during the embryological development of the individual and during the evolution of lineages over geologic time. Most of my projects examine serially homologous structures, such as vertebrae and ribs, in mammals. These structures are repeated segmentally but show regional differentiation when they interact and articulate with structures with different developmental patterning. Species with highly derived morphologies that appear to “break the rules” of mammalian morphology, such manatees, tree sloths, and whales intrigue me particularly.

I retired from teaching at Wellesley in December 2020, but multiple research projects are in progress. Here are some of my recent publications:

Buchholtz EA, Yozgyur ZM, Feldman A, Weaver AA and Gaudin TJ. 2020. The therian sternum at the lateral somitic frontier: Evolution of a composite structure. Journal of Zoology


Boessenecker RW, Churchill M, Buchholtz EA, Beatty BL and Geisler JH. 2020. Convergent evolution of swimming adaptations in modern whales revealed by a large macrophagous dolphin from the Oligocene of South Carolina. Current Biology 20: 3267- 3273.

Buchholtz, E.A.; Yozgyur, Z.M.; Weaver, A.A.; Gaudin, T.J. 2019. Homology and modularity in the mammalian sternum. Journal of Morphology 280: S47.

Buchholtz EA 2017. Finding sacral: Developmental evolution of the axial skeleton of odontocetes (Cetacea). Evolution & Development, 19(4-5): 190-204.

Buchholtz EA 2014. Crossing the frontier: a hypothesis for the origins of meristic constraint in mammalian axial patterning. Zoology 117: 64-69.

Buchholtz EA, Wayrynen KL, and Lin IW. 2014. Breaking Constraint: Axial Patterning in Trichechus (Mammalia: Sirenia). Evolution & Development 16: 382-393.

Roston RA, Lickorish D, and Buchholtz EA. 2013. Anatomy and age estimation of an early blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) fetus. The Anatomical Record 296: 709-722.

Buchholtz, EA. 2012. Flexibility and constraint: patterning the axial skeleton in mammals, pp. 230-256 in From Clone to Bone: The Synergy of Morphological and Molecular Tools in Paleobiology, R. J. Asher and J.Müller, eds. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Buchholtz EA, Bailin HG, Laves JT, Yang JT, Chan, M-Y, and Drozd LE. 2012. Fixed cervical count and the origin of the mammalian diaphragm. Evolution & Development 15(5): 399-411.

Buchholtz EA. 2010. Vertebral and rib anatomy in Caperea marginata: implications for evolutionary patterning of the mammalian vertebral column. Marine Mammal Science 27(2) 382-397.

Buchholtz EA and Stepien CC. 2009. Anatomical transformation in mammals: developmental origin of aberrant cervical anatomy in tree sloths. Evolution & Development 11(1): 69-79.


  • B.A., College of Wooster
  • M.A., University of Wisconsin
  • Ph.D., George Washington University