UCL Division of Biosciences


CDB Seminar - Dr Elsa Panciroli, Oxford University Museum of Natural History

06 July 2023, 12:00 pm–1:00 pm

photo of Elsa Panciroli

Title: British Mesozoic Mammals and the Emergence of Mammal Traits

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Michael Wright – Cell and Developmental Biology

Talk abstract: New analytical methods have recently revitalised the role of British fossils in understanding mammal evolution in the ‘time of dinosaurs’ (the Mesozoic). The first fossil Mesozoic mammals were discovered in Oxfordshire over 200 years ago, and were subsequently pivotal to understanding taxonomy, dentition and important anatomical changes in the skeleton. But their significance was eclipsed as more complete skeletons came to light in other parts of the world. British fossils are now once again providing significant new data, including information on ecological diversity and the emergence of mammalian physiology (e.g. ‘warm-bloodedness’) and life histories. Exceptional near-complete fossil skeletons discovered during ongoing fieldwork on the Isle of Skye in Scotland provide unpresented insights into growth rates and weaning. The techniques being developed for their study herald an exciting new frontier for palaeontology, opening new areas for research in the coming decades.

Suggested references:

Newham, E., Gill, P.G., Brewer, P., Benton, M.J., Fernandez, V., Gostling, N.J., Haberthür, D., Jernvall, J., Kankaanpää, T., Kallonen, A. and Navarro, C., 2020. Reptile-like physiology in Early Jurassic stem-mammals. Nature communications, 11(1), p.5121.

Panciroli, E., Benson, R.B., Walsh, S., Butler, R.J., Castro, T.A., Jones, M.E. and Evans, S.E., 2020. Diverse vertebrate assemblage of the Kilmaluag Formation (Bathonian, Middle Jurassic) of Skye, Scotland. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 111(3), pp.135-156.

Panciroli, E., Benson, R.B., Fernandez, V., Humpage, M., MartínSerra, A., Walsh, S., Luo, Z.X. and Fraser, N.C., 2022. Postcrania of Borealestes (Mammaliformes, Docodonta) and the emergence of ecomorphological diversity in early mammals. Palaeontology, 65(1), p.e12577.

Zoom: https://ucl.zoom.us/j/93107791520

Host: Prof Susan Evans

About the Speaker

Dr Elsa Panciroli

Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Dr Panciroli uses X-ray tomography and digital visualisation to understand the anatomy and growth of the first mammals and their closest relatives. Her work focuses on mammals from the Mesozoic, a time when we see the origin of major groups and ways of life. In particular, she is interested in growth patterns and the role of body size in the development of mammal ecomorphology. This work involves the high-resolution scanning of fossil material and application of statistical methods to explore bone shape and tooth microstructure. This work helps us understand the assembly of mammal traits, and how they have contributed to the group’s ongoing evolutionary success.

Many of Dr Panciroli’s specimens come from the Isle of Skye, where she is a leading member in ongoing field research. Many of her key specimens come from the island. She also collaborates on other fossils from Scotland and the rest of the British Isles, including squamates, salamanders, and dinosaurs.

More about Dr Elsa Panciroli