comparative morphology,
mechanics & materials
Department of Infectious Diseases & Public Health,
City University of Hong Kong


Our workgroup is based in the Department of Infectious Diseases & Public Health @

City University of Hong Kong, with collaborations and students the Department of Biomaterials, 

Max Planck Institute of Colloids & Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany

(especially with Shahrouz Amini's group

...and in the Matters of Activity Research Excellence Cluster,

(with John Nyakatura's Lab at the HU)

We have ongoing projects with a variety of regular collaborators, at the Zuse Institute for Information Technology in Berlin, the Wyss Institute for Bioinspired Design at Harvard,  and other institutions


Mason Dean

Group Leader | ResearchGate site

Júlia Chaumel

PhD Student

Chondrocyte structure & function in tessellated cartilage  | ResearchGate site 


Binru Yang

PhD Student / Matters of Activity Excellence Cluster & Nyakatura Lab 

Mechanical and structural analyses of biological / bio-inspired tessellations 


Jana Ciecierska-Holmes

studentische Hilfskraft 

Geometric analyses of biological tessellations 



Shahrouz Amini

Group Leader, MPIKG

Micromechanics of Biological Materials  | ResearchGate site | Google Scholar site 

[Zuse Institute Berlin]

HFSP project partners

Daniel Baum

ZIB Head of Research Group

Visual Data Analysis


[other institutions]


Mélanie Debiais-Thibaud

Université de Montpellier


James Weaver

Wyss Institute @ Harvard


Ronald Seidel

B CUBE @ TU Dresden



Michael Blumer

Medizinische Universität Innsbruck

[Lab & project alumni]

Chuang Liu MPIKG Post Doc, Structural and materials characterization of bone growth plates

Aravind Jayasankar MPIKG PhD, Analytical & Finite Element modeling of bio-inspired tessellations

Ronald Seidel MPIKG Post Doc, Ultrastructure, development & mechanics of chimaera teeth

Ronald Seidel MPIKG PhD, Ultrastructure, development & mechanics of tessellated cartilage

Mohammad Tadayon MPIKG w.M., Structure-function relationships in stingray tissues

Charlotte Viets MPIKG s.H., Structure-function relationships in stingray skeletons

Jensina Froland MPIKG s.H., 3D printing & mechanical testing of intertesseral joints

Jacob Naumann MPIKG s.H., Parametric modeling & mechanical testing of 3D-printed tilings

Ronald Seidel MPIKG w.M., Evolutionary morphology of the head skeleton of batoid fishes

Allison Luger MPIKG w.M., Lamniform shark jaw morphology & mechanics

Merlind Schotte ZIB Bachelor's thesis, Lamniform shark jaw morphology & mechanics

David Knötel ZIB MSc thesis, Semi-automatic segmentation of tessellated cartilage

Rishabh Shrivastava MPIKG w.M., Topology of tesserae lacuno-canalicular networks

Anne Kaulfuss MPIKG w.M., Ultrastructure & mineralization of tessellated cartilage

w.M. = wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter / Research Assistant; s.H. = studentische Hilfskraft / Student Assistant

our WORK

We investigate principles of organization and performance in animal musculoskeletal systems —particularly in fishes— to address questions relevant to ecology, evolution, physiology and behavior, also incorporating engineering and physical science perspectives to inform biomaterials and translational science. 


Mouse-over images below to learn more about the techniques we use to investigate development and form-function relationships in animals, from tissues up to whole skeletal elements.

[Please ask me before using any of these images.]


our ORGANISMS are museum-pickled or fresh from the sea or market.


we use HISTOLOGY & LIGHT MICROSCOPY to characterize tissue type & organization (and to make pretty pictures). [...collaboration with Michael Blumer (Medizinische Universität Innsbruck)...]


with ELECTRON MICROSCOPY, we can investigate tissue ultrastructure and composition. [...collaborations with Michael Blumer (Medizinische Universität Innsbruck), Sidney Omelon (University of Ottawa) & Luca Bertinetti (MPIKG)...]


we are (admittedly) a bit obsessed with CT SCANNING —medical-, micro-, and synchrotron varieties— for non-destructive sample imaging. [...collaborations with Dylan Wainwright (Harvard) & Paul Zaslansky (Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin)...]


CT scanning produces tons of data - we’re working with Daniel Baum’s visual data analysis group (Zuse Institute Berlin) to make SEGMENTATION & IMAGE ANALYSIS easier.


we use MULTI-MATERIAL 3D PRINTING to convert digital tomography data back into physical objects and to more manageable scales. [...collaborations with James Weaver (Harvard’s Wyss Institute) & Ahmed Hosny (Dana Farber Cancer Institute)...]


with PARAMETRIC MODELING & FEA, we test how real and hypothetical morphologies affect mechanics. [...collaborations with John Dunlop, Lorenzo Guiducci & Junning Chen (MPIKG)...]


with MECHANICAL & MATERIALS TESTING, we test the performance of (and verify our predictions for) biological tissues and 3D printed models. [...collaborations with James Weaver (Harvard’s Wyss Institute) & Ling Li (Virginia Tech)...]


our physical models, graphic design and visualizations are great OUTREACH tools for sharing ideas with the public and other scientists. [...“+ultra” Exhibition 2016, “Image Knowledge Gestaltung” Interdisciplinary Research Cluster, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin…]



See my ResearchGate page for our full publication list and PDFs

Please contact me for my complete CV


  • Seidel R, A Jayasankar, R Shahar & MN Dean (2020) The multiscale architecture of tessellated cartilage and its relation to function. Journal of Fish Biology (Invited review). In press. (doi: 10.1111/jfb.14444)​​

  • van Mesdag S, J den Blaauwen, MN Dean & Z Johanson (2020) Hyperossification in the vertebral column of Devonian placoderm fishes (Arthrodira). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. In press. (doi: 10.1080/02724634.2020.1766477)

  • M Schotte, J Chaumel, MN Dean & D Baum (2020) Image analysis pipeline for segmentation of a biological porosity network, the lacunocanalicular system in stingray tesserae. MethodsX. 7: 100905.

  • Jayasankar AK, R Seidel, A Hosny, JC Weaver, P Fratzl, J Chen & MN Dean (2020) Multi-scale modeling and mechanical performance characterization of stingray skeleton-inspired tessellations. Journal of the Mechanics & Physics of Solids. 138: 103906. (doi: 10.1016/j.jmps.2020.103906)

  • Chaumel, J, †M Schotte, J Bizzarro, P Zaslansky, P Fratzl, D Baum & MN Dean (2020) Co-aligned chondrocytes: Zonal morphological variation and structured arrangement of cell lacunae in tessellated cartilage. Bone. 134: 115264. (doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2020.115264)

  • Connors, M, T Yang, Z Deng, A Hosny, M Dkye, F Yazdandoost, H Massaadi, D Eernisse, R Mirzaeifar, MN Dean, JC Weaver, C Ortiz & L Li (2019) Biologically-inspired lessons from chiton scales for the design of flexible armors. Nature Communications. 10: 5413. (doi:10.1038/s41467-019-13215-0)


  • Baum, D, JC Weaver, I Zlotnikov, D Knötel, L Tomholt & MN Dean (2019) High-throughput segmentation of tiled biological structures using random walk distance transforms. Integrative & Comparative Biology. 59(6): 1700-1712. (doi: 10.1093/icb/icz117)


  • Campbell, RA & MN Dean (2019) Adaptation and evolution of biological materials. Integrative & Comparative Biology. 59(6): 1629-1635. (doi: 10.1093/icb/icz134)

  • Seidel, R, A Roschger, L Li, JJ Bizzarro, Q Zhang, J Yin, T Yang, JC Weaver, P Fratzl, P Roschger & MN Dean (2019) Mechanical properties of stingray tesserae: High-resolution correlative analysis of mineral density and indentation moduli in tessellated cartilage. Acta Biomaterialia. 96: 421-425. (doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2019.06.038)

  • Ofer, L, MN Dean, P Zaslansky, S Kult, Y Shwartz, J Zaretsky, S Griess-Fishheimer, E Monsonego-Ornan, E Zelzer & R Shahar (2019) A novel non-osteocytic regulatory mechanism of bone modeling. PLoS Biology. 17(2): e3000140. (DOI: https://doi. org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000140)


  • Hosny A, S Keating, J Dilley, B Ripley, T Kelil, S Pieper, D Kolb, C Bader, A Pobloth, M Griffin, R Nezafat, G Duda, E Chiocca, J Stone, J Michaelson, MN Dean, N Oxman & JC Weaver (2018) From improved diagnostics to presurgical planning: High-resolution functionally graded multimaterial 3D printing of biomedical tomographic data sets. 3D Printing & Additive Manufacturing. 5(2): 1-11. (DOI: 10.1089/3dp.2017.0140)

        » Media coverage: 3D Printing Industry | | Wyss Institute

  • Knoetel D, R Seidel, S Prohaska, MN Dean & D Baum (2017) Automated segmentation of complex patterns in biological tissues: Lessons from stingray tesselated cartilage. PLoS ONE. 12(12): e0188018. (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188018)


  • Seidel R, M Blumer, E-J, Pechriggl, K Lyons, BK Hall, P Fratzl, JC Weaver & MN Dean (2017) Cartilage or bone? Collagens in the skeleton of “cartilaginous” fishes answer an old question. Journal of Structural Biology. 200(1): 54-71. (DOI: 10.1016/j.jsb.2017.09.005).


  • Dean MN, J Bizzarro, B Clarke, CJ Underwood & Z Johanson (2017) Large batoid fishes frequently consume stingrays despite skeletal damage. Royal Society Open Science. 4: 170674. (DOI: 10.1098/rsos.170674).

        » Media coverage: Deutschlandfunk        | Max Planck Society DE/EN | Natural History Museum


  • Seidel R, M Blumer, P Zaslansky, D Knötel, DR Huber, JC Weaver, P Fratzl, S Omelon, L Bertinetti, MN Dean (2017) Ultrastructural, material and crystallographic description of endophytic masses - a possible damage response in shark and ray tessellated calcified cartilage. Journal of Structural Biology. 198: 5-18. (DOI: 10.1016/j.jsb.2017.03.004).


  • Jayasankar AK, Seidel R, Guiducci L, Hosny A, Fratzl P, Weaver JC, Dunlop JWC & MN Dean (2017) Mechanical behavior of idealized, stingray-skeleton-inspired tiled composites as a function of geometry and material properties. Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials. 73: 86-101 (DOI:10.1016/j.jmbbm.2017.02.028).


  • Frølich S, JC Weaver, MN Dean, H Birkedal (2017) Uncovering nature's design strategies through parametric modeling, 3D printing, and mechanical testing. Advanced Engineering Materials. 19: 1600848. (DOI: 10.1002/adem.201600848)

       » Media coverage: Advanced Science News | 3D Printing Industry


  • Priemel T, E Degtyar, MN Dean & MJ Harrington (2017) Rapid self-assembly of complex biomolecular architectures during mussel byssus bio-fabrication. Nature Communications. 8: 14539. (DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS14539)


  • Currey JD, MN Dean, R Shahar (2017) Revisiting the links between bone remodeling and osteocytes: insights from across phyla. Biological Reviews. 92: 1702–1719. (DOI: 10.1111/brv.12302)


  • Albéric M, MN Dean, A Gourrier, W Wagermaier, JWC Dunlop, A Staude, P Fratzl & I Reiche (2017) Relation between the macroscopic pattern of elephant ivory and its three-dimensional micro- tubular network. PLoS One. 12(1): e0166671. (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166671)




  • Seidel R, A Jayasankar, R Shahar & MN Dean (2019) Multiscale architectures of fish bone and tessellated cartilage and their relation to function. In: Architectured Materials in Nature and Engineering (eds. Y Estrin, Y Bréchet, JWC Dunlop, P Fratzl) Springer Series in Materials Science, vol 282. New York, NY. pp. 329-353. (Invited book chapter)


  • Huber DR, CAD Wilga, MN Dean, L Ferry, J Gardiner, L Habegger, Y Papastamatiou, J Ramsay & L Whitenack (2019). Feeding in cartilaginous fishes: An interdisciplinary synthesis. In: Feeding in Vertebrates – Anatomy, Biomechanics, and Evolution (ed. V Bels, IQ Whishaw) Springer Publishing. New York, NY. pp. 231-295. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-13739-7_8 (Invited book chapter)


  • Dean, MN (2017) Cartilaginous Fish Skeletal Tissues. In: Reference Module in Life Sciences, Elsevier, ISBN 9780128096338. (Invited book chapter)


  • Claeson KM & MN Dean (2017) Cartilaginous Fish Skeletal Anatomy. In: Reference Module in Life Sciences, Elsevier, ISBN 9780128096338. (Invited book chapter)



...Please see my ResearchGate page for more of our publications... 




Mason Dean

Department of Infectious Diseases & Public Health

5/F, Block 1, To Yuen Building
31 To Yuen Street
City University of Hong Kong
Kowloon, Hong Kong