The Palaeobiology collections are housed in a modern purpose-built environmentally-controlled store, and comprise around 250,000 specimens, of which two per cent are very important type or figured specimens. The collection covers all the major groups of fossil invertebrates, vertebrates, plants and trace fossils.
Many of the specimens were collected from around the world from the early nineteenth century onwards, but particularly from important Scottish Palaeozoic localities. Many of the specimens are historically important and were collected by early pioneers of Scottish Palaeontology such as Hugh Miller and Charles Peach. The collections continue to be studied by the Palaeobiology team and visiting researchers. They are also being enhanced by field collection, as well as acquisitions from private collectors, to fuel further research or for exhibition purposes.
Scotland’s Palaeozoic rocks represent important windows through which crucial stages in the early evolution of life on Earth can be viewed. In particular, our collections are renowned worldwide for specimens of eurypterids and plants, and our fossil fish and early tetrapod collections are among the largest and most diverse in the world. Early Carboniferous (360-345 million year old) fossils are helping to answer long-standing questions about the early evolution of terrestrial animals during a time when little is known about life on land. This study contributed to a major collaborative research project: TWeed (Tetrapod World: early evolution and diversity) paleobiology research project.
We have received a grant for two years from the John Ellerman Foundation to investigate fossil and other natural sciences collections in museums around Scotland. For more information see Natural Science Collections Across Scotland.
Dr Andrew Ross: Principal Curator, Palaeobiology
Specific responsibility: Curation and development of the fossil collections.
Research interest/expertise: Fossil arthropods, particularly the taxonomy, biodiversity and palaeoecology of insects.
You can find out more about Dr Andrew Ross here.
Dr Stig Walsh: Senior Curator, Vertebrate Palaeobiology
Specific responsibility: Curation of fossil vertebrate collections, especially Palaeozoic fish and early tetrapods.
Research interest/expertise: Vertebrate palaeoneurology (especially birds), avian palaeontology and evolution, vertebrate taphonomy, micro-CT techniques and quantitative approaches for investigating vertebrate skeletal shape variation.
You can find out more about Dr Stig Walsh here.
Dr Yves Candela: Curator, Invertebrate Palaeobiology
Specific responsibility: Curation of fossil invertebrate and plant collections with particular responsibilities for fossil Brachiopoda.
Research interest/expertise: Brachiopoda taxonomy; biodiversification and biogeography of the Ordovician marine faunas; Cladistical analysis of the Strophomenida brachiopods.
You can find out more about Dr Yves Candela here.
Dr Sarah Stewart: Assistant Curator, Palaeobiology
Specific responsibility: Curation of fossil invertebrate and plant collections with particular responsibilities for fossil mollusca.
Research interest/expertise: Geology, stratigraphy and palaeontology of the Girvan district, Scotland. 'Neglected' and/or problematic fossil taxa (groups).
You can find out more about Dr Sarah Stewart here.
Vicen Carrió-Lluesma ACR: Geology Conservator
Specific responsibility: The preparation and conservation of specimens for inclusion in our galleries, temporary or permanent exhibitions, and for research.
Research interest/expertise: Anoxic environment techniques to improve the life of collections, adhesives, and how to improve the packing of collections to be stored and handled effectively.
You can find out more about Vicen Carrió here.
Dr Susan Beardmore: John Ellerman Project Curator
Specific responsibility: Review of fossil and other natural science material in Scottish museums.
Research interest/expertise: preservation of Mesozoic reptile skeletons, focusing on Triassic material from Monte San Giorgio (Switzerland-Italy border); development of Recognised Collection at Elgin Museum; Move project officer at Oxford University Museum of Natural History; Cretaceous vertebrate excavations in Utah, USA.
You can find out more about Susan Beardmore here.
Dr Davide Foffa
Research interest/expertise: Vertebrate palaeontology. Triassic terrestrial ecosystems; anatomy, systematics, ecology, and macroevolution of Mesozoic marine reptiles using icro-CT techniques, biomechanics, quantitative multivariate analyses.
Davide Foffa is funded by the Royal Commission of the Exhibition of 1851.
Keeper of Natural Sciences
Dr Nick Fraser
Research interests/expertise: Early Mesozoic terrestrial and marine ecosystems; phylogeny and systematics of Rhynchocephalia and Protorosauria; global faunal and floral change across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary.
Find out more about Dr Nick Fraser.
Dr Stephen Brussate
Research interests/expertise: Anatomy, systematics, and macroevolution of fossil vertebrates, particularly dinosaurs and Triassic archosaurs.
Professor Michael Coates
Research interests/expertise: Early vertebrate diversity and evolution, the reconstruction of evolutionary pattern and process, and uses of fossils and systematic methods in evolutionary developmental biology.
Professor David Harper
Research interests/expertise: Fossil brachiopods and numerical methods in palaeontology with a special interest in the Lower Palaeozoic rocks of Scotland and their brachiopods. Some of the major events in the history of life, for example the Cambrian Explosion, Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event and the end Ordovician mass extinctions. Professor of Palaeontology in Earth Sciences and Principal of Van Mildert College, in Durham University.
Dr Michael Taylor
Research interest/expertise: Palaeobiology and evolution of marine tetrapods, especially Mesozoic marine reptiles such as plesiosaurs; the history of palaeontology and museums, especially the collector Hugh Miller (1802-1856).