The first dinosaurs walked on two legs (they were bipedal), with forelimbs modified for grasping, but they radiated into a diverse range of shapes and sizes and four-leggedness (quadrupedality) evolved at least four times in different lineages of dinosaurs independently of each other. In the lizard-hipped saurischian dinosaurs, quadrupedality evolved in the sauropodomorphs, animals like Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus. In the bird-hipped ornithischian dinosaurs, however, quadrupedality evolved at least three times independently: once in the armoured dinosaurs, like Stegosaurus, once in the horned dinosaurs, like Triceratops, and at least once in the duck-billed dinosaurs, like Edmontosaurus. The aims of my work involve understanding the 'hows' and 'whys' regarding the changes from bipedality in primitive ornithischian dinosaurs, to quadrupedality. Along with my collaborators Paul Barrett, Don Henderson and Karl Bates I use methods that include comparative anatomy with the extant phylogenetic bracket (crocodiles and birds), quantitative morphometrics, computational modelling and centre of mass reconstruction to test a series of hypotheses that have been proposed to explain the repeated evolution of quadrupedality in the ornithischian dinosaurs.
3D scanning the holotype of the stegosaurian dinosaur Dacentrurus
Thyreophora are a group of ornithischian (bird-hipped) dinosaurs whose members are characterized by the presence of plates and spines extending down their backs. Although they include such iconic taxa as Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus, relationships between different species of armoured dinosaur is poorly understood. My research includes the description, taxonomic stabilization and phylogeny of these dinosaurs, which provides a foundation for further palaeobiological study into this interesting yet poorly understood clade.
The first fossils to be recognised as giant reptiles were found in Sussex, here in the UK, in the 19th century, and places such as Lyme Regis and the Isle of Wight have become world renowned for the spectacular fossil vertebrates that are revealed as the cliffs erode. In contrast, China has come to the forefront of dinosaur research relatively recently, with the discovery of the spectacularly preserved Jehol Biota, which preserves numerous feathered dinosaur fossils. However, dinosaur research in China has been going on much longer; the first dinosaurs were reported from China in the 1950s. My colleagues Paul Barrett, Paul Upchurch and Phil Mannion and I are engaged in ongoing research to revise the taxonomy and systematics of the British dinosaurs, and those from China that were discovered prior to the 1990s and are now rather eclipsed by China's dinobirds.
PhD, University of Cambridge, funded by a Domestic Research Studentship; Title - Systematics and phylogeny of Stegosauria (Dinosauria, Ornithischia)
Imperial College London, 1st class (Hons) MSci degree in Geological Sciences and Associateship of the Royal School of Mines
The Natural History Museum - Postdoctorial researcher, NERC funded
Talisman Energy Vietnam - Exploration geologist
Qube Software - Palaeontological consultant
Imperial College - Research assistant
BP - Geoscience intern
Richard Thompson, Imperial College: MSc Thesis - Phylogeney of Ankylosauria (Dinosauria: Ornithischia)
Holly Barden, University of Sheffield: M.Biol.Sci Thesis - Sexual dimorphism in the stegosaurian dinosaur Kentrosaurus aethiopicus
Mark Logie, Cambridge University: MSci Thesis - Limb bone scaling as a proxy for physiology in dinosaurs