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Origin and Evolution of Mammals: study of an exceptionally preserved skeleton from the Middle Jurassic of Skye, Scotland

Dr Elsa Panciroli successfully defended her thesis in 2019 after 3.5 years as a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh and co-supervised by National Museums Scotland.

Last updated: 8 February 2022

About the research

There are still many mysteries surrounding the origin and early radiation of mammals. They appeared at the same time as the first dinosaurs, yet remained relatively small until the dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago. Despite their size, they were clearly very successful to have survived and flourish on earth today. This project looked at what made these early mammals so successful, and the role they played in an ecosystem dominated by dinosaurs.

Dr Elsa Panciroli crouching on a large rock

Elsa Panciroli

Elsa examined previously overlooked fossils from the Isle of Skye which are among the best-preserved Middle Jurassic mammals outside China. Using micro CT-scanning, Elsa reconstructed the fossils digitally in 3D and used them to study the anatomy of these creatures, helping to tell us how they lived, what they ate, and where they fit into the ecosystem of Jurassic Scotland.

 

Lead image: Jurassic Coast: Stereognathus by Mark Witton (markwitton.com).

Doctoral research project details

Project title

Origin and Evolution of Mammals: study of an exceptionally preserved skeleton from the Middle Jurassic of Skye, Scotland

Student

Dr Elsa Panciroli

Project active

2015 - 2019

Funder

NERC E3 (Edinburgh Earth and Environment) Doctoral Training Partnership

National Museums Scotland Supervisors

Dr Stig Walsh and Dr Nick Fraser - Department of Natural Sciences

Research theme

Sustainability

Elsa has gone on to become a Research Associate at National Museums Scotland, and a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Researcher at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Find her on Twitter @gsciencelady.

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Blog posts by Elsa Panciroli

Read about Elsa's work with fossil mammals.

Find out more
Email icon Dr Stig Walsh

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