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Welcome to the Bristol Palaeobiology Masters degree website

A world-beating introduction to modern palaeobiology. Find out more about the Bristol palaeobiology group here, and a review of the status and outcomes of the MSc in its first decade and more here.

For further information, go to the Faculty of Science programme web pages.

The University offers 26 Think Big Scholarships for any overseas applicant for a Masters degree (closing dates are 23rd March and 29th June 2018). There are scholarships for Danish students (closing date, 1st March, 2019). Further, the Hong Kong Alumni Scholarship (closing date, 1st March, 2018) supports one student a year who has substantial links with Hong Kong, and there are University of Bristol Santander Masters Scholarships to support students from Latin American countries (closing date 31st August 2018). The University also offers a scholarship funding finder.

For US citizens, there are several avenues for funding, including the Fulbright-Bristol University Award, which provides generous support to one US citizen per year (closing date, 11th October, a year in advance of your start date), the Bristol Marshall Scholarships, which support up to three US citizens each year (closing date, early May each year), and there are loan schemes for US students.

The UK government now offers a loan scheme for Masters programmes, similar to the undergraduate schemes. This is open to UK citizens under the age of 60, and covers full-time or part-time (50%) attendance. Further details here.

See the video about the Bristol Masters in Palaeobiology on YouTube


  News from the Palaeobiology Masters Degree Programme

  July 2018 - New sources of melanin pigment shake up ideas about fossil animals' colour
A team of palaeontologists, led by University College Cork and including the University of Bristol, have discovered new sources of the pigment melanin, calling for a rethink of how scientists reconstruct the colour of fossil birds, reptiles and dinosaurs. The work is based on MSc student Jonathan Kaye's project. Many recent studies of fossil colour have assumed that melanosomes come from the skin. But the new evidence shows that other tissues - such as the liver, lungs, and spleen - can also contain melanosomes, suggesting that fossil melanosomes may not provide information on fossil colour. Read more.

  June 2018 - Bristol students win two of three national prizes
At the annual Progressive Palaeontology meeting in Manchester last week, two Bristol students won two of the three prizes. Many congratulations to: (1) PhD student Melisa Morales Garcia for her poster "2D extruded Finite Element Analysis: a novel biomechanical technique in the study of early mammals". (2) MSc student James Chester for his lightning talk on "A Total Evidence Approach to Scorpion Evolution". We failed to secure the 15-minute talk prize. The meeting is annual, and brings together dozens of palaeontology students from all institutions. Read more.

  May 2017 - Karina Vanadzina wins national first prize for her MSc thesis
Karina Vanadzina, who completed the MSc in Palaeobiology in 2016, has just won the Geologists' Association Prize for the best MSc project in an earth sciences subject in the UK. GA President, Dr Colin Prosser, gave Karina her award of a certificate and a cheque for £1000. Karina's project was on "The complex interplay of ontogeny and environmental factors during a transition in Globorotalia plesiotumida - tumida lineage of planktic foraminifera". Karina begins a PhD in St Andrews in September 2017. This is the second time a Bristol MSc Palaeobiology student has won the top prize. Read more.

  August 2016 - Bristol MSc Palaeobiology student wins poster prize
Against competition from PhD students, postdocs, and established academics, Bristol MSc student Melisa Morales Garcia won the prize for best poster at the 64th Symposium for Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy, held at the University of Liverpool. The title of her poster is 'Savannahs from the past and present: an analysis on the morphospace occupation of ungulates', based on her Masters research project supervised by Professor Christine Janis in Bristol and Laura Säilä in Helsinki. Melisa begins a PhD shortly with Professor Emily Rayfield, in Bristol. Read more.

  August 2016 - Unearthed: the cannibal sharks of a forgotten age
Scientists have discovered macabre fossil evidence suggesting that 300 million-year-old sharks ate their own young, as fossil faeces of adult Orthacanthus sharks contained the tiny teeth of juveniles. Bristol MSc in Palaeobiology student, Aodhán Ó Gogáin, made the extraordinary discovery as part of his research project, published today in Palaeontology. he was investigating an extensive vertebrate fauna from the Late Carboniferous of New Brunswick, Canada, where he did field work, and then worked on a large sample of sediment rich in bones and teeth. Read more.

  July 2016 - Tooth wear sheds light on the feeding habits of ancient elephant relatives
For the first time, the changing diets of elephants in the last two million years in China have been reconstructed, using a technique based on analysis of the surface textures of their teeth. The work was carried out by University of Bristol student, Steven (Hanwen) Zhang, as his MSci Palaeontology & Evolution final project, and working with an international team of researchers. The research was published online in Quaternary International. The wear patterns show that two extinct elephants were primarily browsing on leaves, and the third was both a grazer and a browser. Read more.

  April 2016 - Tully Monster's eyes prove it was a vertebrate
Former Bristol MSc student, Tom Clements, currently doing his PhD in Leicester, has published his first paper, in Nature, providing conclusive evidence that Tullimonstrum gregarium was a vertebrate based on microscopic organelles in its eyes. The animal, more commonly known the 'Tully Monster', has been found only in coal quarries in Illinois, had been generally interpreted as an invertebrate. The team identified melanosomes in the eye stalks, pigment-bearing organelles, and they were in two types, sausage-shaped and globular, and these two types are known only in vertebrates. Read more.

  December 2015 - Bumper year for publications by Bristol Palaeobiology Masters students
In 2015, Bristol Masters students published 15 papers based on their research in refereed research journals during a single calendar year, making up 13% of the total 117 publications by the group. The 15 papers from the Masters students are listed here, and the overall list of papers published in 2015 by the Bristol Palaeobiology Research Group is here. The annual publications lists for the past thirty years show a steady rise in number and scope of publications in line with the growth in size of the Bristol PBRG. With this year's 15 papers, the Masters students have now published 131 papers over the years.

  November 2015 - Fossil fireworm species named after rock musician
A muscly fireworm from the Cretaceous of Lebanon, discovered by scientists from the University of Bristol and the Natural History Museum, has been named Rollinschaeta myoplena in honour of punk musician and spoken word artist, Henry Rollins, the legendary, muscular frontman of hardcore punk band Black Flag. The fossil is a polychaete annelid, and the researchers were able to identify different muscle groups in Rollinschaeta as the creature's muscles were replicated by the mineral apatite soon after its death. The work was done by Bristol MSc student Paul Wilson and PhD student Luke Parry. Read more.

  October 2015 - Bristol Palaeobiology MSc student wins EGU poster prize
Rachael Moore, now a PhD student at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, presented a poster at the EGU General Assembly, 'Morphotype disparity in the Precambrian,' showing results from her MSc research at the University of Bristol where she examined the microfossils found within Precambrian stromatolites supervised by Dr. Bettina Schirrmeister. Her main research interest is the deep biosphere; she is currently investigating microbial communities found within crystalline basalts and the impact these communities have on their host rocks. Click here to download this prize-winning poster. Read more.

  June 2015 - Deep thoughts: brain of ancient sea creature reconstructed by Bristol undergraduate
The world's first study into the brain anatomy of an ichthyosaur has shed light on how the reptilian brain adapted to life in the oceans. The work, led by University of Bristol MSci student, Ryan Marek, is out this week in the journal Palaeontology. Research into ichthyosaurs is difficult as their fossils are usually found compressed, making studies of skull function and brain anatomy near impossible. However, one specimen from the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute, from a lost site at Strawberry Bank, Somerset, is almost complete, and is preserved spectacularly in three dimensions. Read more.

  June 2015 - Bristol undergraduate identifies Gloucestershire fossil as new species of ancient reptile
Fossils found in a quarry in Gloucestershire have been identified by a student and her supervisors at the University of Bristol as a new small species of reptile with self-sharpening blade-like teeth that lived 205 million years ago. Part of the name chosen for the new species - Clevosaurus sectumsemper, meaning 'Gloucester reptile with ever-sharp teeth' - takes inspiration from a spell cast in the Harry Potter books. The project was led by Catherine Klein, a final-year undergraduate who is completing the MSci in Palaeontology and Evolution, as a summer project in 2014. Read more.

  April 2015 - Sexing Stegosaurus
The first convincing evidence for sexual differences in a species of dinosaur has been described by University of Bristol MSc student, Evan Saitta, in a study of the iconic dinosaur Stegosaurus, published today in PLoS ONE. Stegosaurus had two staggered rows of bony plates along its back and two pairs of spikes at the end of its tail. Some individuals had wide plates, some had tall, with the wide plates being up to 45 per cent larger overall than the tall plates. According to the new study, the tall-plated and the wide-plated Stegosaurus were males and females. Read more.

  April 2015 - Progressive Palaeontology, Bristol, April 9-11
The annual meeting for and by students in palaeontology is in Bristol this year. One hundred PhD and MSc students, and even some undergraduates, present their research in talks and posters, to share the latest methods and ideas, and to gain practice in presenting their scientific work. The organising team was chaired by Joe Keating, and events include a full day of talks and posters, preceded by an icebreaker in the Life Sciences Building Sky Lounge, and followed by the annual dinner, an auction to build a travel fund for the conference in future, and a field trip to local sites. Read more, and see live streaming of the talks.

  January 2015 - Geology senior named as lead author of research paper
Another paper by an undergraduate hits the headlines - this time, the undergraduate is from Iowa State University, Dana Korneisel, who visited in summer 2013 to join a project on small vertebrates near the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, called At the feet of the dinosaurs. Dana worked on a small collection of sharks' teeth and other small fossils from marine beds in Devon, and identified them to make a reconstruction of the fauna of the time. Unexpectedly, after we did fieldwork, it turned out these Rhaetic bonebed fossils were enclosed in burrows and had been reworked by the shrimps that built the burrow systems. Read more.

  January 2015 - Jaw mechanics of shell-crushing Jurassic fish revealed by Bristol undergraduate
The feeding habits of an unusual Jurassic fish have been uncovered by a University of Bristol undergraduate in a groundbreaking study which has been published in Palaeontology, a leading scientific journal, this week - a rare achievement for an undergraduate student. The fish, Dapedium, known from the Lower Lias rocks of the Dorset coast around Lyme Regis, was a shell-crusher, and in the new study, Fiann Smithwick applied a multiple-lever mechanical model to nearly 100 specimens, and confirms that it specialised in feeding on shelled animals. Read more.

  December 2014 - Bristol Masters students publish top papers
In the summary of achievements for 2014, we count a further 12 papers from Masters students, making 11% of the year's total from the whole group. With this year's 12 papers, the Masters students have now published 116 papers since 1999. Overall, the Bristol Palaeobiology Research Group published 106 papers in 2014 in refereed research journals. The full list of papers published in 2014 shows many contributions from graduate students. The annual publications lists for the past thirty years show a steady rise in number and scope of publications in line with the growth in size of the Bristol PBRG.

  December 2014 - Bristol Palaeobiology MSc alumni win prizes
Bristol and ex-Bristol people have won a host of awards at the Palaeontological Association annual meeting in Leeds. Ex-MSc students Edine Pape and Jen Hoyal Cuthill both won prizes for the best posters, and ex-MSci student Tom Fletcher received a commendation in the President's Prize. Edine and Tom are completing their PhDs at Leeds, and Jen is a postdoc at Cambridge. In addition, Phil Donoghue was awarded the President's Medal, PhD student David Button the President's Prize for the best talk, and former postdoc Maria McNamara the Hodson Award for researchers within 10 years of their PhD,

  September 2014 - Bristol students report first semi-aquatic dinosaur, Spinosaurus
A paper, published in Science today, is led by Nizar Ibrahim, who graduated from Bristol with a BSc in Geology and Biology in 2006, and current MSc student, Matteo Fabbri. In it, the team report what appears to be the first truly semiaquatic dinosaur, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. New fossils of the massive Cretaceous predator reveal it adapted to life in the water some 95 million years ago. Its long snout lined with sharp teeth had long suggested Spinosaurus was a fish-eater. Added to this are the proportions of its limb bones, the long snout and retracted nostrils, and solid bone structure. Read more...

  August 2014 - Jurassic Welsh mammals were picky eaters, study finds
New analyses of tiny fossil mammals from South Wales are shedding light on the function and diets of our earliest ancestors. The paper, in Nature, stems from MSc work by Nick Crumpton, who is now completing his PhD in Cambridge. These shrew-sized, early Jurassic mammals were not generalized insectivores as had been thought. CT scans and finite element analysis showed that Kuehneotherium and Morganucodon had very different abilities for catching and chewing prey, evidence for specialization even at this early point in mammalian evolution. Read more...

  May 2014 - Bristol students win all the prizes
At the recent Progressive Palaeontology meeting in Southampton, present and former students from Bristol won five of the six prizes: of current Bristol students, Luke Parry (PhD) won the 'fan choice' (voted for by the delegates) lightning talk, Nidia Alvárez Armada (MSc) won the 'fan choice' poster, and Max Stockdale (PhD) won the best poster voted by the committee. Of former Bristol students, Sam Giles (Bristol MSci, currently Oxford PhD) won the best talk voted by the committee, and Tom Fletcher (Bristol MSci, currently Leeds PhD) won the fan choice talk.

  May 2014 - Davide Foffa, Bristol MSc student reports pliosaur snout internal structure
CT scanning is giving scientists an unprecedented look at pliosaurs, the dominant marine reptiles of the Jurassic, some of which reached lengths of over 10 metres. University of Bristol researcher Davide Foffa, who completed the Palaeobiology MSc in 2012, collated 2,000 individual scans of a fossilised pliosaur's skull and discovered that its snout contained an intricate nerve system similar to that found in crocodiles. This is part of Davide's MSc thesis, published this month in Naturwissenschaften, and the remainder, a biomechanical study of pliosaur feeding, is published next month in Journal of Anatomy. See the video...

  May 2014 - Former MSc student publishes book on dinosaurs of Mexico
Hector Rivera Sylva, who completed the MSc in Palaeobiology in 2003, and now works at the Museo del Desierto in Mexico, is lead editor of a new book, just published by University of Indiana Press on the Dinosaurs and Other Reptiles from the Mesozoic of Mexico. The book summarizes research on turtles, lepidosauromorphs, plesiosaurs, crocodyliforms, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs. In addition, chapters focus on trackways and other trace fossils and on K/P boundary (the Chicxulub crater, beneath the Gulf of Mexico, has been hypothesized as the site of the boloid impact that killed off the dinosaurs). Read more...

  February 2014 - Jaw mechanics shed new light on early tetrapod feeding habits
James Neenan, who completed the MSc in Palaeobiology in Bristol in 2009, has published his Masters research in the prestigious Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In this, he and colleagues in Bristol and elsewhere, present a study of the jaws of Acanthostega and its relatives. The researchers developed innovative new numerical, biomechanical methods to infer the feeding mechanism of Acanthostega, one of the earliest and most primitive tetrapods, and several of its relatives. They find that Acanthostega was more geared towards feeding under water than on land. Read more...

  December 2013 - More scientific publications by Bristol MSc students
With nine further publications in 2013, Bristol's Masters students have now published 104 papers in all since the MSc in Palaeobiology began. The 100th paper is a phylogenetic study of trilobites by Javier Hernández-Ortega, currently a Research fellow in Cambridge, and David Legg, currently a postdoc in Oxford, both of them prolific authors on fossil arthropods. The Bristol Palaeobiology and Biodiversity Research group overall published a total of 80 papers in 2013, of which the contribution by Masters students is 11 percent. Read more...

  December 2013 - Former Masters students publish in Nature
Two graduates of the Bristol MSc in Palaeobiology have recently led teams that published their new discoveries in Nature. First, Vivian Allen, who graduated in 2005, published a paper in May, 2013 that offers new insights into the origins of flight, and functional linkages between forelimb and hindlimb evolution in theropod dinosaurs and birds. Second, Emma Schachner, who also graduated in 2005, has just published a paper that shows unidirectional airflow in the lungs of Savannah monitor lizards. This was unexpected, as unidirectional airflow was known before only in birds.

  September 2013 - Crocodiles in the age of dinosaurs
New research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B has revealed the hidden past of crocodiles. While most modern crocodiles live in freshwater habitats and feed on mammals and fish, their ancient relatives were extremely diverse - with some built for running around like dogs on land and others adapting to life in the open ocean, imitating the feeding behaviour of today's killer whales. The study of morphological and functional disparity in Mesozoic crocodylomorphs was part of Tom Stubbs' MSc project, together with Emily Rayfield, Stephanie Pierce, and Phil Anderson. Read more...

  September 2012 - Palaeobiology's 250th MSc graduate sparks first reunion
The University of Bristol's Palaeobiology and Biodiversity Research Group is celebrating the fact that 250 students have now completed its MSc in Palaeobiology, with its first reunion event for former and current Bristol palaeobiologists. The reunion weekend was a chance to welcome new members of staff, Dr Davide Pisani and Dr Jakob Vinther, and included talks from staff, students, and alumni, a CPD programme of new numerical methods, a tour and display, and a field trip. Liz Martin from Canada (left) was the 250th student to complete the MSc in Palaeobiology. Read more...

  September 2012 - Palaeontology student receives prestigious Fulbright award
Rachel Frigot, who has just finished the MSc in Palaeobiology programme for 2011-2, has received a Fulbright Award to enable her to study at Johns Hopkins University in the US on one of the most prestigious and selective scholarship programmes operating world-wide. Created by treaty in 1948, the US-UK Fulbright Commission offers awards for study or research in any field, at any accredited US or UK university. Rachel funded her Masters studies in Bristol over the past two years by working as a tutor. Read more...

  April 2012 - MSc project on giant marine reptile with a gammy jaw...
Imagine having arthritis in your jaw bones... if they're over 2 metres long! A new study has found signs of a degenerative condition similar to human arthritis in the jaw of a pliosaur, an ancient sea reptile that lived 150 million years ago. Such a disease has never been described before in fossilised Jurassic reptiles. The animal is the pliosaur Pliosaurus from the Upper Jurassic of Westbury, Wiltshire, and the new paper, published today in Palaeontology is the core of Judyth Sassoon's research thesis which she completed while studying for the Bristol MSc in Palaeobiology. Read more...

  April 2012 - Former MSc student publishes the textbook
Steve Brusatte, who completed the MSc in Palaeobiology in Bristol in 2007, and went on to work for his PhD at the American Museum of Natural History, has just published the most authoritative and up-to-date textbook on dinosaurs, with the title Dinosaur Paleobiology. The book covers all aspects of dinosaurs, from classification, phylogeny, and palaeobiology to their extinction and the origin of birds. This is the first in a new series of advanced palaeontological books, published worldwide by Wiley-Blackwell, and edited by Mike Benton from the Bristol group. Read more...

  January 2012 - Former MSc student wins BAFTA
Myles McLeod, who graduated from the MSc in Palaeobiology in 2000, and who runs a film production company, The Brothers McLeod, won a BAFTA at the British Academy Children's Awards for their show 'Quiff and Boot'. They were asked by BBC learning to create a number of short animations about maths for primary school Key Stage 2, and it ran on BBC2 as a 45 minute programme. The British Academy Children's Awards celebrates the very best in children's film, television, games and online media of the past year and the talent behind their successes. Read more...

  December 2011 - More scientific publications by Bristol MSc students
2011 has been marked by more top-level publications by former Bristol Palaeobiology Masters students. We count a further eight papers, bringing the running total, since 1996, to 91 papers. Highlights of 2011 include a paper in PNAS, one of the world's leading scientific journals, from Philippa Thorne, presenting her work on ichthyosaur evolution. Other journals include Palaeontology, Palaeo-3, and Evolution & Development. The Bristol Palaeobiology and Biodiversity Research group overall published a total of 70 papers in 2011, of which the contribution by Masters students is 11 percent. Read more...

  May 2011 - The sea dragons bounce back
Bristol Palaeobiology MSc student Philippa Thorne has just had her research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, one of the world's leading scientific journals. She shows that the evolution of ichthyosaurs, important marine predators of the age of dinosaurs, was hit hard by a mass extinction event 200 million years ago. Ichthyosaurs are iconic fossils, first discovered 200 years ago by Mary Anning on the Jurassic coast of Dorset at Lyme Regis. The new study uses numerical methods to explore rates of evolution, diversity, and range of body morphology through the crisis. Read more...

  December 2010 - Record number of scientific publications by Bristol MSc students
2010 has seen the the largest number of publications by Bristol Palaeobiology Masters students, totalling 20 - one 'public understanding of science' contribution, and 19 scientific papers in journals ranging from Science to Palaeontology, and Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society to Biology Letters. This brings the total of original refereed scientific papers by MSc and MSci students to 81, since the MSc began in 1996. The Bristol Palaeobiology and Biodiversity Research group overall published a total of 80 papers in 2010, of which the contribution by Masters students is 25 percent. Read more...

  November 2010 - New prize announced for best MSc thesis
A new prize for the best project from students enrolled for the MSc in Palaeobiology, to be called the David Dineley Prize, has been launched. The first award will be made in early 2011, for the best MSc thesis in the 2009-2010 cohort, as judged by the teaching staff and the external examiner for the programme. Read more....

  May 2010 - MSc student wins prize for thesis
Nick Crumpton, who completed the MSc in Palaeobiology in Bristol in September 2009, has just been awarded the Geologists' Association prize for one of the best earth sciences Masters theses in the UK in 2009. Nick worked on adaptation and morphometrics of the teeth of tiny Triassic and Jurassic mammals, and the prize was awarded for his application of innovative numerical imaging techniques and comparisons with analogous extant forms. Read more...

  April 2010 - Former MSc students get permanent palaeontology positions
Former students of the Bristol MSc have achieved excellent careers in palaeontology - in museums, universities, publishing, and the media. We normally do not highlight their new posts, but keep a list of current jobs of former students where we can. Three have recently secured permanent positions - Isla Gladstone, as the new Curator of Natural Sciences at the Yorkshire Museum in York, Tai Kubo as Curator at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum in Japan, and Phil Hopley as Lecturer in Palaeoclimatology at Birkbeck College, University of London. Many congratulations to them all!

  March 2010 - Spectacular new opportunity for Bristol MSc students
The 'Jurassic Ecosystem of Strawberry Bank, Ilminster' project was launched on 25th March, with generous funding from the Esmée Fairburn Foundation. The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution's museum holds a unique spectacular collection of exceptionally preserved fossils from the late Lias of Ilminster, Somerset, that show exquisite 3-dimensional detail, and many have soft tissues. The funding supports essential curatorial work at the BRLSI and development of a substantial new research programme by Bristol MSc students, beginning with the October 2010 intake. Read more...

  February 2010 - Humble algae are the key to whale evolution
Felix Marx, who completed the MSci in Palaeontology & Evolution in Bristol last summer, has published part of his research in Science, jointly with Mark Uhen from George Mason University in the US. Their work shows that diatoms, a form of planktonic algae, have been key to the evolution of the diversity of whales. The fossil record shows that diatoms and whales rose and fell in diversity together. Whales do not eat diatoms, but the giant baleen whales feed on krill, small crustaceans that themselves feed on diatoms. Read more...

  December 2009 - Another bumper year for publications by Bristol MSc students
The year 2009 has seen the publication of a further 11 scientific papers by current and former Bristol MSc and MSci palaeontology students. This brings the total of original refereed scientific papers by MSc and MSci students to 64, since the MSc began in 1996. The Bristol Palaeobiology and Biodiversity Research group overall published a total of 64 papers in 2009, of which the contribution by Masters students is 17 percent. Read more...

  November 2009 - Britain's oldest dinosaur to be released
After 210 million years of being entombed in rock, the Bristol Dinosaur is about to be released, thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £295,000 awarded to the University of Bristol. The funding will pay for a preparator, and an Education Officer. MSc students can be part of this educational initiative. The project is planned to include outreach to schools and laboratory skills training for MSc students. MSc student Judyth Sassoon assisted with the launch of the award, and her tastefully varnished finger nails (left) have graced countless photographs worldwide. Read more...

  October 2009 - Why giant sea scorpions got so big
Palaeozoic eurypterids were remarkable for their huge size. It had been thought that these predators became ever larger in an 'arms race' with their prey, the heavily armnoured fishes, or that their size increase was enabled by extra-high levels of oxygen in the atmosphere at the time. New work by MSc student James Lamsdell and Dr Simon Braddy shows that both views are correct: one eurypterid lineage became large to prey on the armoured fishes, and the other because of enhanced oxygen. The work is published today in Biology Letters. Read more...

  September 2009 - Fossil water scorpion was ancestor of giant sweep-feeders
New finds of a fossil water scorpion that lived in rivers around Bristol some 370 Million years ago have shown Bristol palaeontologists what the animal looked like and how it was related to other eurypterids. The work was part of James Lamsdell's Bristol Palaeobiology MSc project, and it is authored also by Dr Simon Braddy from Bristol, and colleague Dr Erik Tetlie from Norway. It is published this week in the journal Palaeontology. Read more...

  September 2009 - Reptiles stood upright after mass extinction
Having studied fossil tracks of reptiles from below and above the end-Permian mass extinction boundary, Prof Mike Benton and former MSc Palaeobiology student Tai Kubo found that medium- and large-sized reptiles changed from walking with a sprawling gait, to walking with their legs tucked under their bodies. This happened across the crisis boundary, whereas evidence from skeletal fossils had previously suggested the transition took some 20-30 million years, through much of the Triassic. Read more...

  September 2009 - No universal driver for plankton evolution
During his MSc project, Bristol Palaeobiology student Ben Kotrc, now undertaking a PhD at Harvard, analysed the relative importance of abiotic versus biotic effect on the evolution of marine plankton. The results of the work, supervised by Dr Daniela Schmidt and recently published in PNAS, show that both competition with other organisms and long term climatic changes influence evolutionary change in radiolarians. Read more...

  June 2009 - New research on early mammals
Two MSc Palaeobiology students in the Department of Earth Sciences have had notable successes in their work on the habits of some of the earliest mammals to have lived, some two hundred million years ago. Nick Crumpton and Kelly Richards are studying the fossilised remains of animals from the Triassic and Jurassic periods, found in ancient caves in the Bristol area, applying innovative new research techniques. Nick has been honoured with a 'best paper' prize, and Kelly has raised funding for her advanced CT-scanning work. Read more...

  June 2009 - Palaeobiology Masters student wins prizes
Sarah Keenan, an MSc student in Palaeobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences, has been awarded a research grant by the Geological Society of America to fund field work in Montana and Texas. This is one of several awards she has accumulated during her year in Bristol: others include some $2000 from the Geological Society of America, and a grant from the University of Bristol Alumni Fund, all to cover costs of field work and laboratory geochemical analyses. The GSA award was made in October 2009, and is reported here. Read more...

  November 2008 - Bristol MSci student publishes study on fossil whales
Felix Marx, a final-year MSci student in the Department of Earth Sciences has just published his first paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, a journal of international significance. Felix looked at the fossil records of whales, seals, and sea cows, and compared the fossil data to the availability of appropriate rock; he finds evidence for some geological control of the fossil record signal, but enough of a biological signal emerges to be used for evolutionary studies. Read more...

  September 2008 - Mass extinctions and the slow rise of the dinosaurs
Dinosaurs survived two mass extinctions and 50 million years before taking over the world and dominating ecosystems, according to new research published this week. Reporting in Biology Letters, Steve Brusatte, in his last blast as an MSc student in the Department, together with colleagues, show that dinosaurs did not proliferate immediately after they originated, but that their rise was a slow and complicated event, and driven by two mass extinctions. Read more...

  September 2008 - Bristol MSc student sheds new light on dinosaurian origins
A new study shows that the dinosaurs originated in two steps, and that they did not compete in a straghtforward way with precursor groups. Steve Brusatte, while an MSc student in the Department, worked with Mike Benton, Marcello Ruta, and Graeme Lloyd to investigate the disparity and morphospace occupation, or overall variability, of dinosaurs and their main competitors, the crurotarsans, through the Late Triassic. The dinosaurs took over some herbivore niches, but then remained at low disparity for 25 million years, before the majority of crurotarsans died out. Read more...

  July 2008 - Was it a bird or was it a plane?
Interdisciplinary studies involving Bristol's departments of Earth Sciences and Aerospace Engineering have given a better understanding of the way that kuehneosaurs - a group of extinct reptiles - used their ribs to fly. Koen Stein built models and tested them in a wind tunnel whilst he was studying for an MSc in Palaeobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences. Read more...

  May 2008 - Former MSc student names the 'Danish blue' parrot
David Waterhouse, who completed the Bristol MSc in 2002, and then went to Dublin to study for his PhD on fossil parrots, has just described a new parrot, Mopsitta tanta from the Eocene Fur Formation, some 55 million years old, of Denmark. The paper, in Palaeontology, has attracted a great deal of interest because of the bizarre concept of a Danish parrot, and obvious parallels with Monty Python's famous 'dead parrot' sketch, featuring the Norwegian blue parrot who was lying on his back because he was 'pining for the fjords'. Read more...

  February 2008 - Bristol MSc student names two new dinosaurs from North Africa
MSc student Steve Brusatte, and his former supervisor, Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, describe two new dinosaurs, Kryptops, the oldest abelisauroid theropod, and Eocarcharia, the oldest carcharodontosaurid theropod, both from Niger in the Sahara, and both indicating the origins of their respective groups in Africa and surround lands. Read more...

  December 2007 - Another bumper year for publications by Bristol MSc students
The year 2007 has marked a record, with 14 publications by current and former MSc and MSci students. The Bristol Palaeobiology and Biodiversity Research group published a total of 61 papers in 2007, of which the contribution by Masters students is 21 percent. Read more...

  December 2007 - Bristol MSc student identifies gigantic new dinosaur
Steve Brusatte, who has just completed the Bristol MSc in Palaeobiology, has described a new species of Carcharodontosaurus, a huge predator from Morocco. Carcharodontosaurus roamed North Africa 100 million years ago, and it was larger than Tyrannosaurus rex. Read more...

  November 2007 - Bristol MSc student named as 'rising star'
Each year, The Observer newspaper identifies 500 'rising stars', young people they feel will go far. In the 2007/8 survey, Colin Barras, who completed the MSc in Palaeobiology in 2002, and then went to Birmingham to complete his PhD, and is now a science writer, was named in the top 50 rising stars in science and innovation. Read more...

  June 2006 - Record number of MSc students win PhD places
Most years, about one-third of the MSc in Palaeobiology students obtain PhD positions - of course, not everyone wants to go this way. By June 2006, ten of the MSc class of 2005-6 had won funded PhD positions from Cambridge (Harvard, USA) to Cambridge (Cambridge University, UK). Here are some of the top students of the 2005-6 cohort, shortly before leaving for their new positions. See the photo enlarged...

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