Dr Roger Benson Earth Sciences, Oxford



Research interests

I am a palaeobiologist working on (1) large-scale patterns of morphological evolution, (2) phylogenetics, and (3) interactions between macroevolution, rock deposition, and Earth's physical history [link to selected publications]

My research aims to quantify evolutionary patterns on long timescales, in major radiations of terrestrial and marine tetrapods, and other fossil groups.

Large-scale evolutionary patterns: Exciting recent developments in evolutionary biology have come from testing mathematical models of body size and shape evolution on evolutionary trees. However, the predominance of ‘extant-only’ datasets, which are heavily pruned by extinction and often document very shallow evolutionary divergences, yields only a partial understanding. 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 birds, dinosaurs, 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.

Systematics: 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.

Interactions between Earth history and evolution: These investigations are key to understanding the importance of ongoing environmental change on the biosphere. 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 long-term patterns of biodiversity, and physical parameters such as sea level and global temperature.


Roger Benson is a vertebrate palaeontologist who works on

-Morphological evolution

-Tetrapod systematics 

-Ancient biodiversity, rock deposition, and Earth's physical history.

He has focused on Mesozoic and Late Palaeozoic groups including dinosaurs, marine reptiles, and early synapsids.

Postgraduate opportunities!

Applications from students to work on vertebrate evolution

in Oxford for 2015 entry will open around or after November 2014.


Oxford DTP in Environmental Science