Roger Benson

Roger Benson

Associate Professor of Palaeobiology
Tel: +44 (0) 1865 272076

Roger Benson is a vertebrate palaeobiologist working on:

    -Large-scale patterns of morphological evolution

    -Phylogenetics

    -Life/Earth interactions

My research has focused on Mesozoic and Late Palaeozoic groups including dinosaurs, marine reptiles, and early synapsids. I aim to quantify evolutionary patterns on long timescales, in major radiations of terrestrial and marine tetrapods, and other fossil groups.

Large-scale evolutionary patterns: My research in this area brings deep time data to bear on questions of adaptive zone invasion and the radiation of important living and fossil groups such as mammals, birds, dinosaurs, marine reptiles and pterosaurs. These analyses illustrate large-scale patterns of evolution on timescales exceeding 100 million years, during the major adaptive radiations that make up most extant biodiversity.

Phylogenetics: My work on dinosaurs, marine reptiles, and stem-group mammals has resolved many long-standing uncertainties on evolutionary relationships within these groups. The resulting evolutionary trees are central to understanding macroevolutionary pattern and process during major evolutionary transitions such as the origins of birds and mammals, and secondary adaptation to aquatic life in terrestrial tetrapods.

Life/Earth interactions: I have focussed on characterising the statistical links between rock record biases, climatic parameters, and vertebrate diversity using multivariate statistical approaches from time series analysis, and subsampling. These studies demonstrate that large-scale biases explain much of the apparent distribution of biodiversity in the fossil record. However, these can be accommodated statistically, revealing important associations between environmental change and long-term patterns of biodiversity.

Evolution of morphology

74. Close RA, Friedman M, Lloyd GT, Benson RBJ. 2015. Evidence for a mid-Jurassic adaptive radiation in mammals. Current Biology 25: 2137-2142.

 

67. Benson RBJ, Campione NE, Carrano MT, Mannion PD, Sullivan C, Upchurch P, Evans DC. 2014. Rates of dinosaur body mass evolution indicate 170 million years of sustained ecological innovation on the avian stem lineage. PLOS Biology 12(5): e1001853.

 

66. Benson RBJ, Frigot RA, Goswami A, Andres B, Butler RJ. 2014. Competition and constraint drove Cope’s rule in the evolution of giant flying reptiles. Nature Communications 5: 3567.

 

62. Benson RBJ, Choiniere JN. 2013. Rates of dinosaur limb evolution provide evidence of exceptional radiation in Mesozoic birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280(1768): 20131780.

 

42. Benson RBJ, Evans M, Druckenmiller PS. 2012. High diversity, low disparity and small body size in plesiosaurs (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) from the Triassic–Jurassic boundary. PLOS One 7(3): e31838.

 

 

Evolution of diversity/fossil record bias

81. Benson RBJ, Butler RJ, Alroy J, Mannion PD, Carrano MT, Lloyd GT. 2016. Near-stasis in the long-term diversification of Mezosoic tetrapods. PLOS Biology 14(1): e1002359.

 

76. Mannion PD, Benson RBJ, Carrano MT, Tennant JP, Judd J, Butler RJ. 2015. Climate constrains the evolutionary history and biodiversity of crocodylians. Nature Communications 6: 8438.

 

64. Mannon PD, Upchurch P, Benson RBJ, Goswami A. 2013. The latitudinal biodiversity gradient through deep time. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 29: 42-50.

 

52. Benson RBJ, Upchurch P. 2013. Diversity trends in the establishment of terrestrial vertebrate ecosystems: interactions between spatial and temporal sampling bases. Geology 41: 43-46.

 

15. Benson RBJ, Butler RJ, Lindgren J, Smith AS. 2010. Mesozoic marine tetrapod diversity: mass extinctions and temporal heterogeneity in geological megabiases affecting vertebrates. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277: 829-834.

 

 

Systematics and evolution

56. Benson RBJ, Druckenmiller PS. 2014. Faunal turnover of marine reptiles during the Jurassic–Cretaceous transition. Biological Reviews 89: 1-23.

 

45. Benson RBJ. 2012. Interrelationships of basal synapsids: cranial and postcranial partitions suggest different topologies. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 166: 601-624.

 

44. Carrano MT, Benson RBJ, Sampson SD. 2012. The phylogeny of Tetanurae (Dinosauria: Theropoda). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 10: 211-300.

 

38. Benson RBJ, Butler RJ, Carrano MT, O’Connor PM. 2012. Air-filled postcranial bones in theropod dinosaurs: physiological implications and the ‘reptile’-bird transition. Biological Reviews 87: 168-193.

 

39. Benson RBJ, Carrano MT, Brusatte SL. 2010. A new clade of archaic large-bodied predatory dinosaurs (Theropoda: Allosauroidea) that survived to the latest Mesozoic. Naturwissenschaften 97: 71-78.

 

21. Benson RBJ, Barrett PM, Rich TH, Vickers-Rich P. 2010. A southern tyrant reptile. Science 327: 1613.

 

Coming soon

 

81. Benson RBJ, Butler RJ, Alroy J, Mannion PD, Carrano MT, Lloyd GT. 2016. Near-stasis in the long-term diversification of Mezosoic tetrapods. PLOS Biology 14(1): e1002359.

 

80. Fischer V, Bardet N, Benson RBJ, Arkhangelsky MS. Friedman M. 2016. Extinction of fish-shaped marine reptiles associated with reduced evolutionary rates and global environmental volatility. Nature Communications.

 

 

2016

79. Close RA, Davis BM, Walsh S, Wolniewicz AS, Friedman M, Benson RBJ. 2016. A lower jaw of Palaeoxonodon from the Middle Jurassic of the Isle of Skye, Scotland, sheds new light on the diversity of British stem therians. Palaeontology 59: 155-169

 

 

2015

 

78. Watanabe A, Gold EL, Brusatte SL, Benson RBJ, Choiniere J, Davidson A, Norell MA. 2015. Vertebral pneumaticity in the ornithomimosaur Archaeornithomimus (Dinosauria: Theropoda) revealed by computed tomography imaging and reappraisal of axial pneumaticity in Ornithomimosauria. PLOS One 10(12): e0145168.

 

77. Fischer V, Arkhangelsky MS, Stenshin IM, Uspensky GN, Zverkov NG, Benson RBJ. 2015. Peculiar macrophagous adaptations in a new Cretaceous pliosaurid. Royal Society Open Science 2: 150552.

 

76. Mannion PD, Benson RBJ, Carrano MT, Tennant JP, Judd J, Butler RJ. 2015. Climate constrains the evolutionary history and biodiversity of crocodylians. Nature Communications 6: 8438.

 

75. Nicholson D, Holroyd P, Benson RBJ, Barrett PM. 2015. Climate mediated diversification of turtles in the Cretaceous. Nature Communications 6: 7848.

 

74. Close RA, Friedman M, Lloyd GT, Benson RBJ. 2015. Evidence for a mid-Jurassic adaptive radiation in mammals. Current Biology 25: 2137-2142.

 

73. Tschopp E, Mateus O, Benson RBJ. 2015. A specimen-level phylogenetic analysis and taxonomic revision of Diplodocidae (Dinosauria, Sauropoda). PeerJ 3: e857

 

72. Benson RBJ, Evans M, Taylor MA. 2015. The anatomy of Stratesaurus (Reptilia, Plesiosauria) from the lowermost Jurassic of Somerset, United Kingdom. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology e933739.

 

71. Benson RBJ, Zverkov NG, Arkhangelsky MS. 2015. Youngest occurrences of rhomaleosaurid plesiosaurs indicate survival of an archaic marine reptile clade at high palaeolatitudes. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 60: 769-780.

 

 

2014

70. Smith AS, Benson RBJ. 2014. Osteology of Rhomaleosaurus thorntoni (Sauropterygia: Rhomaleosauridae) from the Lower Jurassic (Toarcian) of Northamptonshire, England. Palaeontographical Society Monographs 168(642): 1–40 + plates 1–35.

 

69. Newham E, Benson RBJ, Upchurch P, Goswami A. 2014. Mesozoic mammaliaform diversity: the effect of sampling corrections on reconstructions of evolutionary dynamics. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 412: 32-44.

 

68. Benson RBJ, Bowdler T. 2014. Anatomy of Colymbosaurus (Reptilia, Plesiosauria) from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation of the U.K., and high diversity among Late Jurassic plesiosauroids. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 34(5), 1053-1071.

 

67. Benson RBJ, Campione NE, Carrano MT, Mannion PD, Sullivan C, Upchurch P, Evans DC. 2014. Rates of dinosaur body mass evolution indicate 170 million years of sustained ecological innovation on the avian stem lineage. PLOS Biology 12(5): e1001853.

 

66. Benson RBJ, Frigot RA, Goswami A, Andres B, Butler RJ. 2014. Competition and constraint drove Cope’s rule in the evolution of giant flying reptiles. Nature Communications 5: 3567.

 

 

2013

65. Benson RBJ. 2013. Marine Reptiles. Pp. 267–279 in Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, Extinction (N MacLeod, JD Archibald, P Levin eds). Gale Cengage Learning, Farmington Hills, Michigan.

 

64. Mannon PD, Upchurch P, Benson RBJ, Goswami A. 2014. The latitudinal biodiversity gradient through deep time. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 29: 42-50.

 

63. D’Emic MD, Benson RBJ. 2013. Measurement, variation, and scaling of osteocyte lacunae: a case study in birds. Bone 57: 300–310.

 

62. Benson RBJ, Choiniere JN. 2013. Rates of dinosaur limb evolution provide evidence of exceptional radiation in Mesozoic birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280(1768): 20131780.

 

61. D’Emic MD, Mannion PD, Upchurch P, Benson RBJ, Pang Q, Cheng Z. 2013. Osteology of Huabeisaurus allocotus (Sauropoda: Titanosauriformes) from the Upper Cretaceous of China. PLoS ONE 8(8): e69375.

 

60. White MA, Benson RBJ, Tischler TR, Hocknull SA, Cook AG, Barnes DG, Poropat SF, Wooldridge SJ, Sloan T, Sinapius GHK, Elliott DA. 2013 New Australovenator hind limb elements pertaining to the holotype reveal the most complete neovenatorid leg. PLoS ONE 8(7): e68649.

 

59. Benson RBJ, Fitzgerald EMG, Rich TH, Vickers-Rich P. 2013. Large freshwater plesiosaurian from the Cretaceous of Australia. Alcheringa.

 

58. Benson RBJ, Evans M, Smith AS, Sassoon J, Moore-Faye S, Ketchum HF, Forrest R. 2013. A giant pliosaurid skull from the Late Jurassic of England. PLoS ONE 8(5): e65989.

 

57. Goswami A, Prasad GVR, Verma O, Flynn JJ, Benson RBJ. 2013. A troodontid dinosaur from the latest Cretaceous of India. Nature Communications 4: 1703.

 

56. Benson RBJ, Druckenmiller PS. 2014. Faunal turnover of marine reptiles during the Jurassic–Cretaceous transition. Biological Reviews 89: 1-23.

 

55. Mannion PD, Benson RBJ, Butler RJ. 2013. Vertebrate palaeobiodiversity and the impact of sampling bias. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 372: 1-4.

 

54. Pearson MR, Benson RBJ, Upchurch P, Fröbisch J, Kammerer CF. 2013. Reconstructing the diversity of early terrestrial herbivorous tetrapods. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 372: 42-49.

 

53. Butler RJ, Benson RBJ, Barrett PM. 2013. Pterosaur diversity: untangling the influence of sampling biases: Lagerstätten, and genuine biodiversity signals. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 372: 78-87.

 

52. Benson RBJ, Mannion PD, Butler RJ, Goswami A, Evans SE. 2013. Cretaceous tetrapod fossil record sampling and faunal turnover: implications for biogeography and the rise of modern clades. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 372: 88-107.

 

51. Soul LC, Benson RBJ, Weisbecker V. 2013. Multiple regression modelling for estimating endocranial volume in extinct Mammalia. Paleobiology 39: 149-162.

 

50. Smith AS, Benson RBJ. 2013. Marine diversity in the geological record and its relationship to surviving bedrock area, lithofacies diversity, and original marine shelf area. Geology 41: 171-174.

 

49. Benson RBJ, Upchurch P. 2013. Diversity trends in the establishment of terrestrial vertebrate ecosystems: interactions between spatial and temporal sampling bases. Geology 41: 43-46..

 

48. Benson RBJ, Ketchum HF, Naish D, Turner LE. 2013. A new leptocleidid (Sauropterygia, Plesiosauria) from the Vectis Formation (Early Barremian-early Aptian; Early Cretaceous) of the Isle of Wight and the evolution of Leptocleididae, a controversial clade. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 11, 233-250.

 

 

2012

 

47. Bates KT, Benson RBJ, Falkingham PL. 2012. A computational analysis of locomotor anatomy and body mass evolution in Allosauroidea (Dinosauria: Theropoda). Paleobiology 38: 486-507.

 

46. Benson RBJ. 2012. Interrelationships of basal synapsids: cranial and postcranial partitions suggest different topologies. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 166: 601-624.

 

45. Benson RBJ, Rich TH, Vickers-Rich P, Hall M. 2012. Theropod fauna from southern Australia indicates high polar diversity and climate-driven dinosaur provinciality. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37122.

 

44. Carrano MT, Benson RBJ, Sampson SD. 2012. The phylogeny of Tetanurae (Dinosauria: Theropoda). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 10: 211-300.

 

43. Sookias RB, Benson RBJ, Butler RJ. 2012. Biology, not environment, drives major patterns in maximum tetrapod body size through time. Biology Letters 8: 674-677.

 

42. Benson RBJ, Evans M, Druckenmiller PS. 2012. High diversity, low disparity and small body size in plesiosaurs (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) from the Triassic–Jurassic boundary. PLoS One 7(3): e31838.

 

41. Sookias RB, Butler RJ, Benson RBJ. 2012. Rise of dinosaur driven by passive processes of trait evolution. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 279: 2180-2187.

 

40. Mannion PD, Benson RBJ, Upchurch P, Butler RJ, Carrano MT, Barrett PM. 2012. A temperate palaeodiversity peak in Mesozoic dinosaurs and evidence for Late Cretaceous geographical partitioning. Global Ecology and Biogeography 21: 898-908.

 

39. Butler RJ, Brusatte SL, Andres B, Benson RBJ. 2012. How do geological sampling biases affect studies of morphological evolution in deep time? A case study of the Pterosauria (Reptilia: Archosauria). Evolution 66: 147-162.

 

38. Benson RBJ, Butler RJ, Carrano MT, O’Connor PM. 2012. Air-filled postcranial bones in theropod dinosaurs: physiological implications and the ‘reptile’-bird transition. Biological Reviews 87: 168-193.

 

37. Benson RBJ, Mannion PD. 2012. Multi-variate models are essential for understanding vertebrate diversification in deep time. Biology Letters 8: 127-130.

 

36. Vincent P, Benson RBJ. 2012. Anningasaura, a basal plesiosaurian (Reptilia, Plesiosauria) from the Lower Jurassic of Lyme Regis, United Kingdom. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 32: 1049-1063.

 

 

2011

 

35. Benson RBJ, Butler RJ. 2011. Uncovering the diversification history of marine tetrapods: ecology influences the effect of geological sampling biases. Special Publications of the Geological Society of London 358: 191-208 [PDF on request].

 

34. Upchurch P, Mannion PD, Benson RBJ, Butler RJ, Carrano MT. 2011. Geological and anthropogenic controls on the sampling of the terrestrial fossil record: a case study from the Dinosauria. Special Publications of the Geological Society of London 358: 209-240 [PDF on request].

 

33. Ketchum HF, Benson RBJ. 2011. A new pliosaurid (Sauropterygia, Plesiosauria) from the Oxford Clay Formation (Middle Jurassic, Callovian) of England: evidence for a gracile, longirostrine grade of Early Jurassic pliosaurids.Special Papers in Palaeontology 86: 109-129 [PDF on request].

 

32. Benson RBJ, Domokos G, Várkonyi PL, Reisz RR. 2011. Shell geometry and habitat determination in extinct and extant turtles. Paleobiology 37: 547-562.

 

31. Barrett PM, Benson RBJ, Rich TH, Vickers-Rich P. 2011. First spinosaurid dinosaur from Australia and the cosmopolitanism of Cretaceous dinosaur faunas. Biology Letters 7: 933-936.

 

30. Benson RBJ, Bates KT, Johnson MR, Withers PJ. 2011. Cranial anatomy of Thalassiodracon hawkinsii (Reptilia, Plesiosauria) from the Early Jurassic of Somerset, United Kingdom. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 31: 562-574.

 

29. Butler RJ, Benson RBJ, Carrano MT, Mannion PD, Upchurch P. 2011. Sea level, dinosaur diversity and sampling biases: investigating the ‘common cause’ hypothesis in the terrestrial realm. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278: 1165-1170.

 

28. Benson RBJ, Ketchum, HF, Noè, LF, Gomez-Perez, M. 2011. New information on Hauffiosaurus (Reptilia, Plesiosauria) based on a new species from the Alum Shale Member (Lower Toarcian: Lower Jurassic) of Yorkshire, UK. Palaeontology 54: 547-571.

 

27. Ketchum HF, Benson RBJ. 2011. The cranial anatomy and taxonomy of Peloneustes philarchus (Sauropterygia, Pliosauridae) from the Peterborough Member (Callovian, Middle Jurassic) of the UK. Palaeontology 54: 639-665.

 

26. Brusatte SL, Benson RBJ, Xu X. 2012. A reassessment of Kelmayisaurus petrolicus, a large theropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of China. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 57: 65-72.

 

 

2010

 

25. Brusatte SL, Benson RBJ, Xu X. 2010. The evolution of large-bodied theropod dinosaurs during the Mesozoic in Asia. Journal of Iberian Geology 36: 275-296.

 

24. Barrett PM, Benson RBJ, Upchurch P. 2010. Dinosaurs of Dorset: Part II, the sauropod dinosaurs (Saurischia, Sauropoda), with additional comments on the theropods. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society 131: 113­-126.

 

23.  Benson RBJ, Barrett PM, Rich TH, Vickers-Rich P, Pickering D, Holland T. 2010. Response to comment on “A Southern Tyrant Reptile”. Science 329: 1013-d. [see 21. below]

 

22. Barrett PM, Kear BP, Benson RBJ. 2010. Opalized archosaur remains from the Bulldog Shale (Aptian: Lower Cretaceous) of South Australia. Alcheringa 34: 1-9.

 

21. Benson RBJ, Barrett PM, Rich TH, Vickers-Rich P. 2010. A southern tyrant reptile. Science 327: 1613.

 

20. Brusatte SL, Benson RBJ, Currie PJ, Zhao X-J. 2010. The skull of Monolophosaurus jiangi (Dinosauria: Theropoda) and its implications for early theropod phylogeny and evolution. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 158: 573-607.

 

19. Ketchum HF, Benson RBJ. 2010. Global interrelationships of Plesiosauria (Reptilia, Sauropterygia) and the pivotal role of taxon sampling in determining the outcome of phylogenetic analyses. Biological Reviews 85: 361-392.

 

18. Benson RBJ. 2010. The osteology of Magnosaurus nethercombensis (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Bajocian (Middle Jurassic) of the United Kingdom and a re-examination of the oldest records of tetanurans. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 8: 131-146.

 

17. Benson RBJ. 2010. A description of Megalosaurus bucklandii (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Bathonian of the UK and the relationships of Middle Jurassic theropods. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society of London 158: 882-935.

 

16. Benson RBJ, Radley JD. 2010. A new large-bodied theropod dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of Warwickshire, United Kingdom. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 55: 35-42.

 

15. Benson RBJ, Butler RJ, Lindgren J, Smith AS. 2010. Mesozoic marine tetrapod diversity: mass extinctions and temporal heterogeneity in geological megabiases affecting vertebrates. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277: 829-834.

 

14. Benson RBJ, Carrano MT, Brusatte SL. 2010. A new clade of archaic large-bodied predatory dinosaurs (Theropoda: Allosauroidea) that survived to the latest Mesozoic. Naturwissenschaften 97: 71-78.

 

13. Zhao X-J, Benson RBJ, Brusatte SL, Currie PJ. 2010. The postcranial skeleton of Monolophosaurus jiangi (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Middle Jurassic of Xinjiang, China and a review of Middle Jurassic Chinese theropods. Geological Magazine 147: 13–27.

 

12. Brusatte SL, Chure DJ, Benson RBJ, Xu X. 2010. The osteology of Shaochilong maortuensis, a carcharodontosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Late Cretaceous of Asia. Zootaxa 2334: 1-46.

 

 

2009

 

11. Benson RBJ. 2009. An assessment of variability in theropod dinosaur remains from the Bathonian (Middle Jurassic) of Stonesfield and New Park Quarry and taxonomic implications for Megalosaurus bucklandii and Iliosuchus incognitos. Palaeontology 52: 857-877.

 

10. Benson RBJ, Barrett PM. 2009. Dinosaurs of Dorset: Part I, the carnivorous dinosaurs (Saurischia, Theropoda). Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society 130: 133-147.

 

9. Benson RBJ, Brusatte SL, Hutt S, Naish D. 2009. A new large basal tetanuran (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Wessex Formation (Barremian) of the Isle of Wight, England. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29: 612-615.

 

8. Brusatte SL, Benson RBJ, Chure DJ, Xu X, Sullivan C, Hone DWE. 2009. The first definitive carcharodontosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from Asia and the delayed ascent of tyrannosaurids. Naturwissenschaften 96: 1051-1058.

 

 

2008

 

7. Benson RBJ. 2008. New information on Stokesosaurus, a tyrannosauroid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from North America and the United Kingdom. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 28: 732-750.

 

6. Benson RBJ. 2008. A redescription of ‘Megalosaurushesperis (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Inferior Oolite (Bajocian, Middle Jurassic) of Dorset, United Kingdom. Zootaxa 1931: 57-67.

 

5. Benson RBJ, Barrett PM, Powell HP, Norman DB. 2008. The taxonomic status of Megalosaurus bucklandii (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Middle Jurassic of Oxfordshire, UK. Palaeontology 51: 419-424.

 

4. Benson RBJ, Xu X. 2008. The anatomy and systematic position of the theropod dinosaur Chilantaisaurus tashuikouensis Hu, 1964 from the Early Cretaceous of Alanshan, People’s Republic of China. Geological Magazine 145: 778-789.

 

3. Brusatte SL, Benson RBJ, Hutt S. 2008. The osteology of Neovenator salerii (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Wealden Group (Barremian) of the Isle of Wight. Palaeontographcal Society Monographs 162(631): 1-75, plates 1-45.

 

2. Darlington J, Benson RBJ, Cook C, Walker G. 2008. Resolving relationships in some African fungus-growing termites (Termitidae, Macrotermitinae) using molecular phylogeny, morphology, and field parameters. Insectes Sociaux 55: 256-265.

 

 

2007

 

1. Brusatte SL, Benson RBJ, Carr TD, Williamson TE. 2007. The systematic utility of theropod enamel wrinkles. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27: 1052-1056.