Dr Stig Walsh is Senior Curator of Vertebrate Palaeobiology.

Stig WalshDr Walsh’s PhD research (University of Portsmouth, 1997-2001) investigated the processes that form marine bone-beds (rock layers composed of animal bones) by studying a Neogene bone-bed located in the southern tip of the Chilean Atacama Desert.

After this, Dr Walsh worked for five years at the Natural History Museum (London) on a variety of projects that were very different from his doctoral research. These included helping to develop an automated image recognition system for use as a biological shape analysis tool, as well as involvement with development of 3D geometric morphometric approaches (with Prof. Norm MacLeod).

During this period Dr Walsh became interested in vertebrate brain evolution through working with Dr Angela Milner using micro computed-tomographic (µCT) techniques to reconstruct the brain shape in fossil birds.

Dr Walsh joined the Department of Natural Sciences at National Museums Scotland at the start of 2009, and has continued to develop his research into how the avian brain evolved into its modern form from its dinosaur ancestral state. 

In 2010 Dr Walsh was awarded a NERC Small Grant to investigate whether the relative size of a region of the brain called the cerebellar flocculus can be used to infer flying ability in fossil birds. This work, carried out principally in collaboration with Dr Andrew Iwaniuk (University of Lethbridge, Canada), provided interesting insights into how the brain cavity can be used as a source of information. The data generated from the project continue to act as an abundant source of information about the avian brain’.

Ten selected publications

  1. Walsh, S. A., Milner, A.C. and Bourdon, E. 2016. A reappraisal of Cerebavis cenomanica (Aves, Ornithurae), from Melovatka, Russia. Journal of Anatomy doi: 10.1111/joa.12406.
  2. Walsh, S. A., Zhe-Xi, L. & Barrett, P. 2014. Modern imaging techniques as a window to prehistoric auditory worlds. pp. 227-261 In Köppl, C. & Manley, G. (eds). Insights from Comparative Hearing Research. Springer Handbook of Auditory Research 49, Springer Verlag.
  3. Walsh, S. A., Iwaniuk, A. N., Knoll M. A., Bourdon, E., Barrett, P. M., Milner, A. C., Nudds, R., Abel, R. L. & Dello Sterpaio, P. 2013. Avian cerebellar floccular fossa size is not a proxy for flying ability in birds. PLoS ONE 8 (6): e67176.
  4. Ksepka, D. T., Balanoff, A. M., Walsh, S., Revan, A. & Ho, A. 2012. Evolution of the brain and sensory organs in Sphenisciformes: new data from the stem penguin Paraptenodytes antarcticus. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 166 (1): 202-219.
  5. Walsh, S. A. & Milner, A. C. 2011. Evolution of the avian brain and senses. pp. 282-305 In Dyke, G. & Kaiser, G. (eds) Living dinosaurs: the evolutionary history of modern birds. 422 p.
  6. Walsh, S. A. & Knoll, M. A. 2011. Directions in palaeoneurology. Special Papers in Palaeontology 86: 263-279.
  7. Walsh, S. A. & Milner, A. C. 2011. Halcyornis toliapicus (Aves: Lower Eocene, England) indicates advanced neuromorphology in Mesozoic Neornithes. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 9 (1): 173-181.
  8. Walsh, S. A., Barrett, P. M., Milner, A. C., Manley, G., & Witmer, L. M. 2009. Inner ear anatomy is a proxy for deducing auditory capability and behaviour in reptiles and birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276: 1355-1360.
  9. Milner, A. C. & Walsh, S. A. 2009. Avian brain evolution: new data from Palaeogene birds (Lower Eocene) from England. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 155: 198-219.
  10. Walsh, S. A. & Sánchez, R. 2008. The first Cenozoic fossil bird from Venezuela. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 82 (2): 105-112.