In attempting to understand the history of life, paleontology links techniques from several fields: biology, geology, and physical anthropology. Vertebrate fossils, when compared to living forms, can be used in studies of phylogenetic relationships and function. Fossil assemblages aid geologists in correlating rocks and may suggest climate, former migration routes, and past ecological interactions. My interests center on Tertiary ungulate mammals, especially on perissodactyls and artiodactyls. Much of my work has emphasized chalicotheres, an unusual group of clawed perissodactyls. Careful morphological comparisons have elucidated the worldwide systematics and zoogeography of this group; functional studies of a variety of extant and fossil clawed herbivores have clarified chalicothere mode of life; and an analysis of a fossil assemblage in which these often rare animals predominate has aided understanding their ecological associations. Graduate students under my direction have studied other perissodactyl groups (amynodont rhinoceroses, brontotheres), artiodactyls (peccaries) and related topics of their own choosing. Vertebrate collections of the Pratt Museum, Amherst College, are utilized in teaching and research.
Coombs, Margery C., and Rothschild, Bruce M. 1999. Phalangeal fusion in schizotheriine chalicotheres (Mammalia, Perissodactyla). Jour. Paleont. 73(4): 682-690.
Coombs, Margery C. 1998. Chalicotherioidea. In: Janis, C.M., Scott, K. M., and Jacobs, L.L., eds., Evolution of Tertiary mammals of North America. Vol. 1: Terrestrial Carnivores, Ungulates, and Ungulatelike Mammals, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge/New York, pp. 511-524.
Coombs, Margery C., and Coombs, Walter P., Jr. 1997. Analysis of the geology, fuana and taphonomy of Morava Ranch Quarry, early Miocene of northwest Nebraska. Palaios 12: 165-187.
Coombs, M.C. 1989. Interrelationships and diversity in the Chalicotheriidae. In The Evolution of Perissodactyls, DR Prothero and RM Schoch, eds., Oxford Univ. Press, pp. 438-457.
Xue, X.X. and M.C. Coombs. 1985. A new species of Chalicotherium from the upper Miocene of Gansu Province, China. Jour. Vert. Paleont. 5: 336-344.
Coombs, M.C. 1983. Large mammalian clawed herbivores: a comparative study. Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc. 73(7): 1-96.
Coombs, M.C. and W.P. Coombs Jr. 1982. Anatomy of the ear region of four Eocene artiodactyls: Gobiohyus, Helohyus, Diacodexis and Homacodon. Jour. Vert. Paleont. 2: 219-236.
Coombs M.C. 1979. Tylocephalonyx, a new genus of North American dome-skulled chalicotheres. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 164: 1-64.