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Research interests

My research focuses on using the fossil record to understand major evolutionary transitions, both at the level of the organism and at the level of the ecosystem. I'm interested in the origins of new kinds of organisms, including the evolution of birds from dinosaurs and the evolution of snakes from lizards, as well as major changes to the biosphere caused by geologic events, particularly the Chicxulub asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. These transitions, which are responsible for the organisms and ecosystems all around us today, can only be understood using the paleontological record: a complete understanding of the patterns and processes of evolution requires fossils.

Over the past few years, I’ve focused on using the Cretaceous fossil record to better understand the end-Cretaceous mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. Using vertebrate microfossils, it has been possible to show that not only did the asteroid cause the extinction of the dinosaurs, it also led to major extinctions among birds, lizards, and snakes, which then drove adaptive radiations in the aftermath. Other projects have focused on the origin of major groups of animals. Fossils of a primitive Cretaceous snake have helped shed light on the evolution of snakes from burrowing lizards, and a restudy of the Jurassic bird Archaeopteryx have revealed a surprisingly primitive wing structure, better suited for gliding than active flapping flight.

My goals are to continue work on the end-Cretaceous extinction event, and to launch new projects aimed at understanding vertebrate radiations and extinctions during the Cretaceous and Paleogene. In the meantime I am busy working on dinosaur systematics, including revisions to horned dinosaurs and ornithomimosaurs… and for something completely different, I have a new Theory on the Brontosaurus.

Willing to supervise PhD

 I am always happy to talk with prospective graduate students and postdocs.

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Volunteer preparators in palaeontological research

Longrich, N.

1/09/15 → …

Project: Research-related funding

Research Output

How the extinction of ice age mammals may have forced us to invent civilisation

Longrich, N., 3 Jan 2020, The Conversation.

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

Open Access

New toothed pterosaurs (Pterosauria: Ornithocheiridae) from the middle Cretaceous Kem Kem beds of Morocco and implications for pterosaur palaeobiogeography and diversity

Jacobs, M. L., Martill, D. M., Unwin, D. M., Ibrahim, N., Zouhri, S. & Longrich, N. R., 19 Feb 2020, In : Cretaceous Research. 104413.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

The origin and evolution of love

Longrich, N., 13 Feb 2020, The Conversation.

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

A new species of Coloborhynchus (Pterosauria, Ornithocheiridae) from the mid-Cretaceous of North Africa

Jacobs, M. L., Martill, D. M., Ibrahim, N. & Longrich, N., 1 Mar 2019, In : Cretaceous Research. 95, p. 77-88

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Cretaceous dinosaur bone contains recent organic material and provides an environment conducive to microbial communities

Saitta, E. T., Liang, R., Lau, M. C., Brown, C. M., Longrich, N. R., Kaye, T. G., Novak, B. J., Salzberg, S. L., Norell, M. A., Abbott, G. D., Dickinson, M. R., Vinther, J., Bull, I. D., Brooker, R. A., Martin, P., Donohoe, P., Knowles, T. D., Penkman, K. E. & Onstott, T., 18 Jun 2019, In : eLife. 8, e46205.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
4 Citations (Scopus)


Cretaceous-Cenozoic Evolution of the Crocodylia, and the Role of Environmental Change in Driving Diversity

Author: Russell, H., 13 Feb 2019

Supervisor: Wills, M. (Supervisor) & Longrich, N. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Survival of duplicate genes in the vertebrate genome: A matter of splice or death

Author: Xia, B., 22 Nov 2018

Supervisor: Urrutia, A. (Supervisor) & Longrich, N. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisMPhil