Nick Fraser is head of the Department of Natural Sciences and specialises in vertebrate palaeontology.

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Dr Fraser studied zoology as an undergraduate and geology as a postgraduate at the University of Aberdeen. He worked for 18 years at the Virginia Museum of Natural History before moving back to Scotland and National Museums Scotland in 2007. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech and Honorary Fellow in Geosciences, Edinburgh University.

Dr Fraser’s research is interdisciplinary and centres on the Triassic period (250 -201 million years ago). Collaborating with a number of colleagues worldwide, he has published extensively on Triassic faunas and floras.

The Triassic is a critical period in earth’s history as it saw the origin of many of the major groups of modern animals, (including mammals, crocodiles, turtles and true flies) and is renowned as the time when the first dinosaurs walked the planet. At the same time the Triassic world was home to some of the most bizarre vertebrate animals ever known – including the marine tanystropheids with necks longer than their bodies and tail combined.

The tanystropehids form part of an extinct group of reptiles called the Protorosauria, some members of which are known from Triassic terrestrial sediments in the eastern United States, but many more occur in marine strata of Alpine Europe and China. Working closely with colleagues at the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP) in Bejing, Peking University and the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago), Dr. Fraser has been investigating some of the strange marine reptiles from the Middle Triassic of southern China that includes new protorosaurians.

Most recently Dr. Fraser has been working on two exciting Scottish based research programmes, the TW:eed project (Tetrapod World: early evolution and diversity www.tetrapods.org) and the Jurassic vertebrates of Skye (with PalAlba). 

Ten selected publications

  1. Heckert, A.B., Fraser, N.C. and Schneider, V.P. 2017. A new species of Coahomasuchus (Archosauria, Aetosauria) from the Upper Triassic Pekin Formation, Deep River Basin, North Carolina. Journal of Paleontology 91 (1): 162-178.
  2. J.A. Clack, C.E. Bennett, D.K. Carpenter, S.J. Davies, N.C. Fraser, T.I. Kearsey, J.E.A. Marshall, D. Millward, B.K.A. Otoo, E.J. Reeves, A.J. Ross, M. Ruta, K.Z. Smithson, T.R. Smithson and S.A. Walsh. 2016. Phylogenetic and environmental context of a Tournaisian tetrapod fauna. Nature Ecology & Evolution 1: DOI: 10.1038/s41559-016-0002.
  3. Jiang, D-Y., Motani, R., Huang, J-D., Tintori, A., Hu, Y-C., Rieppel, O., Fraser, N.C., Ji, C., Kelley, N.P., Fu, W-L. & Zhang, R. 2016. A large aberrant stem ichthyosauriform indicating early rise and demise of ichthyosauromorphs in the wake of the end-Permian extinction. Scientific Reports 6: DOI: 10.1038/srep26232.
  4. Li. C., O. Rieppel, C. Long, and N.C. Fraser. 2016. The earliest herbivorous marine reptile and its remarkable jaw apparatus. Science Advances 2: e1501659.
  5. Heckert, A.B., V.P. Schneider, N.C. Fraser and R.A. Webb. 2015. A new aetosaur (Archosauria, Stagonolepididae) from the Upper Triassic Pekin Formation, Deep River Basin, North Carolina, U.S.A. and its implications for early aetosaur evolution. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 35 (1). DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2014.881831.
  6. Young, M.T., J.P. Tennant, S.L. Brusatte, T.J. Challands, N.C. Fraser, N.D.L. Clark and D.A. Ross. 2015. The first definitive Middle Jurassic atoposaurid (Crocodylomorpha, Neosuchia), and a discussion on the genus Theriosuchus. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. DOI: 10.1111/zoj.12315
  7. Fraser, N.C., Rieppel, O., Chun, L. 2013. A long-snouted protorosaur from the Middle Triassic of Southern China. Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology 33 (5): 1120-1126.
  8. Axsmith, B.J., Fraser, N.C., Corso, T. 2013. A Triassic seed with an angiosperm-like wind dispersal mechanism. Palaeontology 56 (5): 1173-1177.
  9. Fraser, N.C. and H.-D. Sues. 2011. The Beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs: a brief overview of terrestrial biotic changes during the Triassic. Earth and Environmental Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 101: 189-200.
  10. Sues, H.-D. and Fraser, N.C. 2010. Triassic life on land: the great transition. Columbia University Press, New York. 280pp. 

For further publications see: National Museums Scotland Research Repository.

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Keeper of Natural Sciences Nick Fraser talks dinosaurs.
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