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Paul Sereno

InstitutionUniversity of Chicago
DepartmentOrganismal Biology and Anatomy
AddressChicago IL 60637
Phone+1 (773) 702-8115
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    Collapse Overview 
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    Research Interests
    Vertebrate Morphology
    Vertebrate morphology and evolution is a major focus of my lab with special interest in archosaurs. Scores of dinosaurs from all major groups (ornithischians, sauropodomorphs, theropods) including early birds have been studied in collections or unearthed as new discoveries from many continents. Flying reptiles (pterosaurs), crocodilians, turtles, bony fish, and a multituberculate mammal are also under study.
    African faunas from Jurassic and Cretaceous horizons are of particular interest, because the history of African faunas during the Mesozoic is sketchy at best. Current work will unveil an armor-free upright crocodilian, an early quadrupedal armored dinosaur, sauropods of many kinds, a small raptor skeleton that used its forelimbs to dig up prey, and new theropods including a new species of Spinosaurus. Bony fish under study include a new giant polypterid and a small freshwater ichthyodectiform.
    Dinosaur “mummies” preserving soft tissue (integument) renderings are under study from end-Cretaceous rocks in Wyoming that include the duckbill Edmontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus. Body frills and spikes as well as hooves are under macro- and molecular study to understand how these such vestiges are preserved.
    Nonvertebrates (invertebrates) are also of interest, including a new swimming crab (decapod) discovered in a Late Cretaceous pond deposit in the Kem Kem Group in Morocco and a new scarab beetle from mid Cretaceous age beds in Niger.

    Vertebrate Function
    Functional studies focus both on testing the functional parameters of particular taxa, such as the aquatic capabilities of Spinosaurus, to large-scale theoretical considerations of how vertebrate function evolves. “Macromodules” identify major functional partitioning (or sequestration) of the original unified (integrated) craniate functional design. Once sequestered, the research is demonstrating, macromodules are rarely, if ever, reversed in the course of vertebrate evolution.

    Generating programs and/or databases to facilitate the understanding and curation of vertebrate morphologic, phylogenetic and taxonomic data are ongoing. FossilScope is a freeware program in development to compile and make available the fossil evidence and digital manipulations that underpin vertebrate skeletal and skeletal-muscle restorations. CharcaterSearch and TaxonSearch, similarly, compile and make accessible character data in phylogenetic analyses and historical and current taxonomic definitions, respectively, using archosaurian reptiles as prototypes.

    Discovery of the Holocene archaeological site Gobero in 2000 marked the beginning of my archaeological research into by far the richest archaeological site in all of the Sahara during Early and Middle Holocene time (~10,000-5,000 BP) during the African Humid Period. More than 100 burials were excavated and thousands of artifacts and faunal remains were collected and set into a detailed geologic and chronologic setting has revealed a unique archaeological story: sustained, sedentary hunter-fisher-gathering supported by freshwater springs in a Green Sahara.

    Lab & Field Work
    Fossil Lab
    I joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1987, developing in stages what has become the Fossil Lab, located just off campus in Washington Park. In the 1950s the university closed its Walker Museum, thereby eliminating its paleontology lab and dispersing its fossil and recent collections. The lab and collections needed rebuilding, if one was to engage in a serious field program.

    South America
    My field work began in the foothills of the Andes in Argentina in 1988, where I discovered skeletons of the earliest dinosaur, including dog-sized Eoraptor ("dawn raptor") and Eodromaeus ("dawn runner"). We dated (radiometrically) those horizons for the first time (231.4 Ma) and described the mixed archosaur-synapsid fauna and paleoenvironments that once existed in southern Pangaea at the dawn of the dinosaur era (early Late Truassic).

    Later, on expeditions to India, my teams discovered fossils of a new dinosaur, Rajasaurus (“princely reptile”), the first predatory dinosaur skull for India. In a remote corner of the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia (China), we discovered a herd of subadult ornithomimid dinosaurs, named Sinornithosaurus (“Chinese bird mimic”), that died in their tracks, mired in mud 90 million years ago. To this day, it comprises the only provable instantaneous population of dinosaurs ever discovered. On an expedition to Tibet at an elevation of 13,000 feet, we rediscovered a site that yielded an as yet unnamed, new long-necked dinosaur, fossilized originally on an island in the Tehthan Sea.

    Starting in the early 1990's, I launched expeditions to the Sahara to beds of Jurassic and Cretaceous age, excavating more than 100 tons of fossils and bringing to light a menagerie of new species including long-necked herbivores like Nigersaurus (“Niger reptile”), meat-eaters like Afrovenator (“African hunter”) and Rugops (“rough face”), and the bizarre huge-clawed fish-eaters Suchomimus (“crocodile mimic”) and Spinosaurus ("spined reptile"). Other discoveries include the world's largest crocodile, the 40-foot-long “SuperCroc” (Sarcosuchus), the fanged, horned “BoarCroc” (Kaprosuchus), and a pterosaur (winged reptile) with a 15-foot wingspan.

    In 2000 I discovered Gobero, the richest archaeological site in the Sahara. Dating to a time before the pyramids, the site documents cultures that thrived for millennia as hunter-fisher-gatherers. In 2006 I excavated the most posed burial in all of prehistory —a triple burial of a mother and two children holding hands. It was dubbed the “Stone Age Embrace.”

    Engagement at all levels —students, the general public, southside neighborhoods, foreign countries— is intertwined with my research, affecting the kinds of classes I teach, my efforts to bring STEAM pathways to teens on the southside of Chicago, and a long-term plan to found new national museums and study programs in Niger (NigerHeritage). I have penned stories in National Geographic and have participated in 15 documentaries on my research. Engagement recognition includes Chicago Tribune's Teacher of the Year award (1993), Chicago magazine’s Chicagoan of the Year (1996), and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (2009).

    Collapse Bibliographic 
    Collapse selected publications
    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.
    Newest   |   Oldest   |   Most Cited   |   Most Discussed   |   Timeline   |   Field Summary   |   Plain Text
    PMC Citations indicate the number of times the publication was cited by articles in PubMed Central, and the Altmetric score represents citations in news articles and social media. (Note that publications are often cited in additional ways that are not shown here.) Fields are based on how the National Library of Medicine (NLM) classifies the publication's journal and might not represent the specific topic of the publication. Translation tags are based on the publication type and the MeSH terms NLM assigns to the publication. Some publications (especially newer ones and publications not in PubMed) might not yet be assigned Field or Translation tags.) Click a Field or Translation tag to filter the publications.
    1. Myhrvold NP, Baumgart SL, Vidal D, Fish FE, Henderson DM, Saitta ET, Sereno PC. Diving dinosaurs? Caveats on the use of bone compactness and pFDA for inferring lifestyle. PLoS One. 2024; 19(3):e0298957. PMID: 38446841; PMCID: PMC10917332.
      Citations:    Fields:    Translation:Animals
    2. Sereno PC, Myhrvold N, Henderson DM, Fish FE, Baumgart SL, Keillor TM, Formoso KK, Conroy LL, Vidal D. Spinosaurus is not an aquatic dinosaur. Elife. 2022 11 30; 11. PMID: 36448670; PMCID: PMC9711522.
      Citations: 5     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    3. Baumgart SL, Sereno PC, Westneat MW. Wing Shape in Waterbirds: Morphometric Patterns Associated with Behavior, Habitat, Migration, and Phylogenetic Convergence. Integr Org Biol. 2021; 3(1):obab011. PMID: 34381962; PMCID: PMC8341895.
      Citations: 2     
    4. Ibrahim N, Sereno PC, Varricchio DJ, Martill DM, Unwin DM, Larsson HCE, Dutheil DB, Baidder L, Zouhri S, Kaoukaya A. Geology and paleontology of the Upper Cretaceous Kem Kem Group of eastern Morocco. Zookeys. 2020; 928:1-216. PMID: 32362741; PMCID: PMC7188693.
      Citations: 15     
    5. Schmidt CW, Remy A, Van Sessen R, Krueger K, Scott R, Mahoney P, Beach J, McKinley J, Chiu L, Buzon M, De Gregory JR, Sheridan S, Eng J, Watson J, Klaus H, Wilson J, Stone A, Sereno P, Droke J, Perash R, Stojanowski C, Herrmann N, Willman J, D'Anastasio R, Da-Gloria P. Dental microwear texture analysis of Homo sapiens sapiens: Foragers, farmers, and pastoralists. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2019 06; 169(2):207-226. PMID: 30888064.
      Citations: 7     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    6. Kaye TG, Falk AR, Pittman M, Sereno PC, Martin LD, Burnham DA, Gong E, Xu X, Wang Y. Laser-stimulated fluorescence in paleontology. PLoS One. 2015; 10(5):e0125923. PMID: 26016843; PMCID: PMC4446324.
      Citations: 22     Fields:    
    7. Ibrahim N, Sereno PC, Dal Sasso C, Maganuco S, Fabbri M, Martill DM, Myhrvold N, Zouhri S, Iurino DA. Semiaquatic adaptations in a giant predatory dinosaur. Science. 2014 Sep 26; 345(6204):1613-6. PMID: 25213375.
      Citations: 45     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    8. Haendel MA, Balhoff JP, Bastian FB, Blackburn DC, Blake JA, Bradford Y, Comte A, Dahdul WM, Dececchi TA, Druzinsky RE, Hayamizu TF, Ibrahim N, Lewis SE, Mabee PM, Niknejad A, Robinson-Rechavi M, Sereno PC, Mungall CJ. Unification of multi-species vertebrate anatomy ontologies for comparative biology in Uberon. J Biomed Semantics. 2014; 5:21. PMID: 25009735; PMCID: PMC4089931.
      Citations: 77     Fields:    
    9. Ibrahim N, Varricchio DJ, Sereno PC, Wilson JA, Wilson JA, Dutheil DB, Martill DM, Baidder L, Zouhri S. Dinosaur footprints and other ichnofauna from the cretaceous Kem Kem beds of Morocco. PLoS One. 2014; 9(6):e90751. PMID: 24603467; PMCID: PMC3946209.
      Citations: 6     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    10. Midford PE, Dececchi TA, Balhoff JP, Dahdul WM, Ibrahim N, Lapp H, Lundberg JG, Mabee PM, Sereno PC, Westerfield M, Vision TJ, Blackburn DC. The vertebrate taxonomy ontology: a framework for reasoning across model organism and species phenotypes. J Biomed Semantics. 2013 Nov 22; 4(1):34. PMID: 24267744; PMCID: PMC4177199.
      Citations: 13     Fields:    
    11. Sereno PC. Corrigenda: Sereno PC (2012) Taxonomy, morphology, masticatory function and phylogeny of heterodontosaurid dinosaurs. ZooKeys 226: 1-225. Zookeys. 2012; (227):101. PMID: 23166466; PMCID: PMC3487651.
      Citations: 3     
    12. Sereno PC. Taxonomy, morphology, masticatory function and phylogeny of heterodontosaurid dinosaurs. Zookeys. 2012; (226):1-225. PMID: 23166462; PMCID: PMC3491919.
      Citations: 23     
    13. Sereno PC. Dinosaur death trap. Sci Am. 2011 Mar; 304(3):70-5. PMID: 21438494.
      Citations:    Fields:    Translation:Animals
    14. Martinez RN, Sereno PC, Alcober OA, Colombi CE, Renne PR, Currie BS, Montañez IP. A basal dinosaur from the dawn of the dinosaur era in southwestern Pangaea. Science. 2011 Jan 14; 331(6014):206-10. PMID: 21233386.
      Citations: 50     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    15. Sereno PC, Tan L, Brusatte SL, Kriegstein HJ, Zhao X, Cloward K. Tyrannosaurid skeletal design first evolved at small body size. Science. 2009 Oct 16; 326(5951):418-22. PMID: 19762599.
      Citations: 17     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    16. Sereno PC. Comparative cladistics. Cladistics. 2009 Dec; 25(6):624-659. PMID: 34879591.
      Citations: 3     Fields:    
    17. Sereno PC, Xijin Z, Lin T. A new psittacosaur from Inner Mongolia and the parrot-like structure and function of the psittacosaur skull. Proc Biol Sci. 2010 Jan 22; 277(1679):199-209. PMID: 19535376; PMCID: PMC2842669.
      Citations: 12     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    18. Sereno PC, Martinez RN, Wilson JA, Varricchio DJ, Alcober OA, Larsson HC. Evidence for avian intrathoracic air sacs in a new predatory dinosaur from Argentina. PLoS One. 2008 Sep 30; 3(9):e3303. PMID: 18825273; PMCID: PMC2553519.
      Citations: 44     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    19. Sereno PC, Garcea EA, Stojanowski CM, Maga A, Ide OA, Knudson KJ, Mercuri AM, Stafford TW, Kaye TG, Giraudi C, N'siala IM, Cocca E, Moots HM, Dutheil DB, Stivers JP, Jousse H, Saliège JF. Lakeside cemeteries in the Sahara: 5000 years of holocene population and environmental change. PLoS One. 2008 Aug 14; 3(8):e2995. PMID: 18701936; PMCID: PMC2515196.
      Citations: 15     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    20. Sereno PC. Logical basis for morphological characters in phylogenetics. Cladistics. 2007 Dec; 23(6):565-587. PMID: 34905871.
      Citations: 49     Fields:    
    21. Sereno PC, Wilson JA, Witmer LM, Whitlock JA, Maga A, Ide O, Rowe TA. Structural extremes in a cretaceous dinosaur. PLoS One. 2007 Nov 21; 2(11):e1230. PMID: 18030355; PMCID: PMC2077925.
      Citations: 68     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    22. Sereno PC. The logical basis of phylogenetic taxonomy. Syst Biol. 2005 Aug; 54(4):595-619. PMID: 16109704.
      Citations: 15     Fields:    
    23. Sidor CA, O'Keefe FR, Damiani R, Smith RM, Larsson HC, Sereno PC, Ide O, Maga A, Steyer JS. Permian tetrapods from the Sahara show climate-controlled endemism in Pangaea. Nature. 2005 Apr 14; 434(7035):886-9. PMID: 15829962.
      Citations: 5     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    24. Sereno PC, Wilson JA, Conrad JL. New dinosaurs link southern landmasses in the Mid-Cretaceous. Proc Biol Sci. 2004 Jul 07; 271(1546):1325-30. PMID: 15306329; PMCID: PMC1691741.
      Citations: 39     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    25. Sereno PC, Larsson HC, Sidor CA, Gado B, Sereno PC, Larsson HC, Sidor CA, Gado B. The giant crocodyliform Sarcosuchus from the Cretaceous of Africa. Science. 2001 Nov 16; 294(5546):1516-9. PMID: 11679634.
      Citations: 41     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    26. Rowe T, McBride EF, Sereno PC. Dinosaur with a heart of stone. Science. 2001 Feb 02; 291(5505):783. PMID: 11157158.
      Citations: 4     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    27. Sereno PC. The evolution of dinosaurs. Science. 1999 Jun 25; 284(5423):2137-47. PMID: 10381873.
      Citations: 108     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    28. Sereno PC, Sereno PC. Definitions in phylogenetic taxonomy: critique and rationale. Syst Biol. 1999 Jun; 48(2):329-51. PMID: 12066711.
      Citations: 2     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    29. Sereno PC, Wilson JA, Larsson HC, Dutheil DB, Sues HD. Response. Science. 1995 Mar 24; 267(5205):1752-3. PMID: 17775787.
      Citations:    Fields:    
    30. Sereno PC, Wilson JA, Larsson HC, Dutheil DB, Sues HD. Early cretaceous dinosaurs from the sahara. Science. 1994 Oct 14; 266(5183):267-71. PMID: 17771449.
      Citations: 19     Fields:    
    31. Rogers RR, Swisher CC, Sereno PC, Monetta AM, Forster CA, Martínez RN. The Ischigualasto Tetrapod Assemblage (Late Triassic, Argentina) and 40Ar/39Ar Dating of Dinosaur Origins. Science. 1993 May 07; 260(5109):794-7. PMID: 17746113.
      Citations: 19     Fields:    
    32. Sereno PC, Novas FE. The complete skull and skeleton of an early dinosaur. Science. 1992 Nov 13; 258(5085):1137-40. PMID: 17789086.
      Citations: 8     Fields:    
    33. Sereno PC, Chenggang R. Early evolution of avian flight and perching: new evidence from the lower cretaceous of china. Science. 1992 Feb 14; 255(5046):845-8. PMID: 17756432.
      Citations: 11     Fields:    
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