Picture of Dr. Julia Boughner

Dr. Julia Boughner PhD, Hon.BSc. Faculty, Anatomy & Cell Biology

Research Areas

  • Evolutionary developmental biology
  • Physical anthropology
  • Craniofacial/dental morphology and evolution

About Dr. Julia Boughner

Associate Professor, Anatomy & Cell Biology, University of Saskatchewan.

Ph.D. Anatomy, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London.

B.Sc. Biological Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto. 

My research background is in physical anthropology, broadly, the study of primate biology and evolution. Over time I’ve morphed into an evolutionary developmental biologist and have worked with various model organisms, including mouse, chick and snake.

Perhaps because I am one, primates remain close to my scientific heart. While I use mouse models in much of my work, I typically ask scientific questions that I hope will inform some aspect of human evolution. In particular, I work to better understand primate craniofacial evolution and development.

Currently, I organize Café Scientifique-Saskatoon. Previously, I co-founded and co-organized one of the first Canadian Café Scientifiques in Vancouver, BC (est. 2004) with then fellow postdoc, Anne Mullin. In 2005, I created a home-grown science and technology radio show called “My Science Project” that aired on CiTR 101.9 FM UBC campus radio until 2008. Anne and I shared broadcasting duties as producers and hosts. In August 2009 I was fortunate enough to participate in the 2-week Science Communications Program at The Banff Centre. For me science outreach is both fun and crucial: I continue to be on the look-out for ways to fill the world with more science.

My laboratory’s principal research question is, “What underlies the coordinated development and evolution of the jaws and teeth?” We combine genetic, morphological, statistical shape analyses, and high-resolution image data to get at the mechanisms that coordinate pre- and postnatal developmental changes among faces, jaws and teeth. My research and expertise have been featured locally, nationally and internationally on the CBC Evening News, CBC Radio 2 Drive, The Star Phoenix, National Geographic, Gizmodo.com, Fusion.net, and HealthyDebate.ca, among other media outlets.

Evolutionary Developmental Biology of the Teeth and Jaws
As teeth and jaws grow they must fit together to work properly and allow an animal to eat. Because teeth sit within the jawbone, any developmental or evolutionary changes in jaw shape or size will invariably affect the teeth and vice versa. To understand how a body part develops is to understand how it may have evolved. It is not known how the timing of tooth and jaw development is coordinated such that these parts “fit” together properly during pre- and postnatal growth. With support from NSERC Canada, our current focus is to explain how the pace of tooth and jaw development has evolved to be (relatively) synchronous.

Experimental methods
One option is that the timing of tooth development is controlled by signals from the jaw tissues, and vice versa. However, good evidence suggests that the opposite is true: the pace of tooth and jaw development has been naturally selected to run in parallel with no cross-talk between tooth and jaw tissues. We aim to tackle this research question using complimentary genetic, statistical and advanced 3D imaging data alongside mammalian models at various stages of pre- and postnatal development.

Being virtually next door to the Canadian Light Source (Canadian Light Source), home to Canada’s only Synchrotron, my lab has access to amazingly powerful high-resolution imaging technologies with which to study morphology. Supported by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, we will soon have an Optical Projection Tomography scanning system (bioptonics), enabling us to image and measure embryonic morphology alongside the genetics driving this development. We are also fortunate to have the Computed-Tomography Facility at our department in Dr. Dave Cooper’s lab (Dr. Cooper's Lab).

The Master Plan
Our aim is to start to fill a fundamental gap in scientific knowledge by helping to explain how jaw and tooth development is coordinated in time. This insight should further clarify how teeth and jaws have developed and evolved such an amazing variety of different yet functional forms across living and extinct mammals. More broadly, this insight also speaks to how functionally-linked body parts develop and evolve in tandem.

My research is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Training Grant in Health Research Using Synchrotron Techniques

Selected Publications

Peer-reviewed Research Articles                              underline=my trainee;*=equal contribution          

  1. Boughner JC. 2017. Implications of vertebrate craniodental Evo-Devo for human oral health. J. Experimental Zoology: Part B Molecular & Developmental Evolution. doi: 10.1002/jez.b.22734. 328(4):321–33 (html)
  2. Raj MT, JC Boughner. 2016. Detangling the evolutionary developmental integration of dentitions and jaws: a p63-regulated gene network for odontogenesis exclusive of mandible morphogenesis. Evolution & Development 18(5-6): 317-323. (html)
  3. Marchiori DF, GV Packota, JC Boughner. 2016. Third molar mineralization as a function of available space. Acta Odontologica Scandanivica. 74(7):509-517.  (html)
  4. M Linde-Medina, JC Boughner, S Santana, R Diogo. 2016. Are more diverse parts of the mammalian skull more labile? Ecology & Evolution 6(8): 2318-24.
  5. Wong MD, CE Matthijs, S Spring, S Jevtic, JC Boughner, JP Lerch, and RM Henkelman. 2015. 4D atlas of the mouse embryo for precise morphological staging. Development 142:3583-91.
  6. Diogo R, B Esteve-Altava; C Smith; JC Boughner; D Rasskin-Gutman. 2015. Anatomical Network comparison of human upper and lower, newborn and adult, and normal and abnormal limbs, with notes on development, pathology and limb serial homology vs. homoplasy. PLOS ONE 10(10):e0140030.
  7. Boughner JC, J Der, KL Kuykendall. 2015. A multivariate approach to dentally age free-lived and captive-raised chimpanzees (P. troglodytes). Am J Phys Anthropol. 158(3):452-462.
  8. Esteve-Altava B, Boughner JC, Diogo R, Villmoare BA, Rasskin-Gutman D. 2015. Anatomical Network Analysis shows decoupling of modular lability and complexity in the evolution of the Primate skull. PLOS ONE 10(5): e0127653.
  9. Esteve-Altava B, R Diogo, C Smith, JC Boughner, D Rasskin-Gutman. 2015. Anatomical networks, musculoskeletal evolution and human anatomy and modularity. Nature Scientific Reports 5, 8298; DOI:10.1038/srep08298
  10. Raj MT, M Prusinkiewicz, DML Cooper, G Belev, MA Webb, JC Boughner. 2014. Imaging earliest tooth development in 3D using a new silver-based tissue contrast agent. The Anat. Rec. 297(2):222-33. doi: 10.1002/ar.22845.
  11. Boughner JC. 2013. Maintaining Perspective on Third Molar Extraction. J Cdn Dental Assoc. 9(6):347-49 (79:d106. http://www.jcda.ca/article/d106).
  12. Paradis MR, MT Raj, JC Boughner2013. Jaw growth in the absence of teeth: the developmental morphology of edentulous mandibles using the p63 mouse mutant. Evol & Dev. 15(4):268-79 (DOI: 10.1111/ede.12026). (html)
  13. Boughner JC, MC Dean, C Wilgenbusch2012. Permanent tooth mineralization in bonobos (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (P. troglodytes). Am J Phys Anthropol. 149(4): 560-71. (html)
  14. Parsons TE, EJ Schmidt, JC Boughner, HA Jamniczky, RS Marcucio, B Hallgrímsson. 2011. Epigenetic integration of the developing brain and face. Dev Dyn. 240: 2233–44.(pdf)
  15. Boughner JC. 2011. Making space for permanent molars in growing baboon (Papio anubis) and great ape (Pan paniscus and P. troglodytes) mandibles: Possible ontogenetic strategies and solutions. Anat Res Int 2011:16pp. Article ID 484607. doi:10.1155/2011/484607(pdf)
  16. Meruvia-Pastor O, J Soh, EJ Schmidt, JC Boughner, M Xiao, HA Jamniczky, B Hallgrimsson, C Sensen. 2011. Estimating Cell Count and Distribution in Labeled Histological Samples Using Incremental Cell Search. Int J of Biomed Imaging vol. 2011: 16pp. Article ID 874702. doi:10.1155/2011/874702(html)
  17. Schmidt EJ, TE Parsons, HA Jamniczky, J Gitelman, C Trpkov, JC Boughner, C Logan, CW Sensen, B Hallgrímsson. 2010. Micro-computed tomography-based phenotypic approaches in embryology: Sources and effects of procedural artifacts on assessments of embryonic craniofacial growth and development. BMC Dev Biol10:18-32.(html)
  18. Jamniczky HA, JC Boughner, PN Gonzalez, CD Powell, C Rolian, EJ Schmidt, TE Parsons, FL Bookstein, B Hallgrímsson. 2010. Mapping the Epigenetic Landscape: Rediscovering Waddington in the Post-Genomic Age.BioEssays 32:1-6.(pdf)
  19. Hallgrímsson B, HA Jamniczky, NM Young, C Rolian, TE Parsons, JC Boughner, R Marcucio. 2009. Deciphering the Palimpsest: Studying the relationship between morphological integration and phenotypic covariation. Evol Biol36: 355-76.( pdf)
  20. Boughner JC, B Hallgrímsson. Biological spacetime and the temporal integration of functional modules: a case study of dento-gnathic developmental timing. 2008. Dev Dyn 237: 1-17. Featured in “Highlights in DD”, June 2008.(pdf)
  21. Boughner JC, MC Dean. Mandibular shape, ontogeny and dental development in bonobos (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). 2008Evol Biol. 35: 296-308.( pdf)
  22. Boughner JC*, S Wat*, VM Diewert, NM Young, LW Browder, B Hallgrímsson. 2008. Short faced mice and developmental interactions between the brain and the face. J Anat 213: 646-62.(pdf)
  23. Boughner JC*, M Buchtová*, K Fu, VM Diewert, B Hallgrímsson, JM Richman. Embryonic development ofPython sebae I. 2007. Staging criteria & macroscopic skeletal morphogenesis of the head & limbs. Zoology 110: 212-30.( pdf)
  24. Buchtová M, JC Boughner, K Fu, VM Diewert, JM Richman. 2007. Embryonic development of Python sebae II. Craniofacial microscopic anatomy, cell proliferation & apoptosis. Zoology 110: 231-51.(html)
  25. Richman JM, M Buchtová, JC Boughner2006. Comparative ontogeny & phylogeny of the upper jaw skeleton in amniotes. Dev Dyn 235: 1230-43.(pdf)
  26. Boughner JC, MC Dean. Does space in the jaw influence timing of molar crown initiation? A model using baboons (Papio anubis) and great apes (Pan troglodytesPan paniscus). 2004. J Hum Evol 46: 253-75.(html)


  1. Understanding Human Anatomy and Pathology: an Evolutionary Developmental Guide for Medical Students. 2016. R Diogo, D Noden, C Smith, J Molnar, JC Boughner, C Barrocas, J Bruno. Taylor & Francis Group: Boca Raton.
  2. Developmental Approaches to Human Evolution. 2016. JC Boughner & CP Rolian (Eds). This book (invited by Wiley) showcases leading-edge research in Evolutionary Developmental Anthropology. Wiley: Hoboken.

Book Chapters

  1. Boughner JC. 2016. The tooth of the matter: the Evo-Devo of phenotypic change. Developmental Approaches to Human Evolution. JC Boughner, CP Rolian (Eds). pp.35-60. Wiley: Hoboken.
  2. CP Rolian, JC Boughner. 2016. Introduction to Evo-Devo-Anthro. Developmental Approaches to Human Evolution. JC Boughner, CP Rolian (Eds). pp.1-15. Wiley: Hoboken.
  3. Boughner JC. The evolution of the vertebrate jaw: How would you eat without one? Biology on the Cutting Edge.SL Gillies, S Hewitt (Eds). Supplement to Biology. 10th Edition. Campbell NA, Reece JB. Pearson Canada: Toronto. pp. 85-90. (2010).
  4. Hallgrímsson B, JC Boughner, AL Turinsky, TE Parsons, C Logan, CW Sensen. Geometric morphometrics and the study of development. Advanced Imaging in Biology & Medicine: Technology, Software Environments & Applications. CW Sensen & B Hallgrímsson (Eds). Springer Verlag: Berlin. pp. 319-38. (2009).
  5. Meruvia-Pastor O, J Soh, M Xiao, E Schmidt, C Logan, JC Boughner, N Jones, D Osborn, J Santiago, J Gittleman, B Hallgrímsson, CW Sensen. Fast Interactive Integration of Cross-Sectional Image Datasets and Surface Data for Morphometric Analysis. Medicine Meets Virtual Reality 17, NextMed: Design for the Well Being. JD Westwood, S Westwood, RS Haluck, H Hoffman, GT Mogel, R Phillips, RA Robb, KG Vosburgh (Eds). IOS Press: Amsterdam. pp. 183-86. (2009). 
  6. Boughner JC, MC Dean. Mind the gap: Creating space for the permanent molars in the developing primate mandible. Current Trends in Dental Morphology Research. E Żądzińska (Ed). University of Lodz: Lodz, Poland. pp. 211-22. (2005).