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Roger Benson

MA Cantab, MSc Imperial, PhD Cantab
Subjects: 
Earth Sciences

Research Summary

Roger Benson is a palaeobiologist researching the evolution of major tetrapod groups, including the dinosaurs, marine reptiles, and ancestries of birds and mammals. His approach includes both field- and lab-based work targeted at major transitions in tetrapod evolution, such as the origin of birds, adaptation to life in water, and the long-term interactions between biological evolution and climatic variation.

Biography

Roger has been a Lecturer in Palaeobiology and tutorial fellow of St Edmund Hall since October 2012. He graduated in Natural Sciences from Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 2004, having started out studying physical sciences and migrated across geology to a final year in zoology.

From there, he completed a Master's degree in Taxonomy and Biodiversity at Imperial College, London (2005), and a PhD in Earth Sciences, Cambridge. His thesis concerned dinosaur evolution and relationships, focussing on the British Jurassic fossil record. Many of the relevant fossils are held in Oxford. They were collected in the 1800s and were important during the development of Geology and Biology. They are also important today, contributing to our understanding of Mesozoic vertebrate evolution, Pangaean biogeography, and the origin of birds.

Roger's research has focussed on two main groups, the theropod dinosaurs and plesiosaurian marine reptiles. Theropods were the dominant terrestrial predators for 150 million years during the Mesozoic. They include Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptor and birds, which are the most diverse living tetrapod class (10,000 species). Plesiosaurs are bizarre, long-necked oceanic reptiles with highly variable body plans including very long-necked representatives with up to 76 neck vertebrae.

Currently, he is investigating the interactions between fossil biodiversity, climate change, and variation in sedimentary rock deposition and preservation.

Teaching Profile

Roger's teaching involves palaeobiology, evolution and basic geology, primarily at 1st-, 3rd- and 4th-year level.