UCL Earth Sciences


Jack Lovegrove

The relationships of early dinosaurs are controversial and much debated, my research will directly address these controversies.

PhD project title:

Early evolutionary history of Dinosauria.

Jack Lovegrove
Project description:

Dinosaurs are undisputed icons of Palaeontology and the wider earth sciences. Although they are the most intensively studied group of fossil organisms, uncertainty surrounds the groups early evolutionary history and broad scale phylogenetic relationships.  Most quantitative palaeontological techniques use a phylogenetic tree so resolving this uncertainty is essential to our understanding of the evolution of dinosauria, including its extant members (Birds).

Dinosaurs have historically  been classified into two major groups (Ornithischia and Saurischia),however this view was challenged in 2017 with the proposal of the “Ornithoscelida hypothesis”. Under this hypothesis the major split within Dinosauria was proposed to be between the Sauropodomorphs and Ornithoscelidans ( Theropods + Ornithischians). This proposal was controversial and prompted a flurry of research into the early evolution of Dinosaurs. Instead of a consensus being reached the uncertainty around broad scale dinosaur phylogenetic relationships has deepened. New hypotheses, e.g the inclusion of Silesauridae into Ornithischia, have been proposed taking the debate beyond a simple “traditional hypothesis” vs “Ornithoscelida hypothesis” dichotomy.

This project will combine the wealth of new data now available with cutting edge phylogenetic methods to assess the many competing hypotheses about early dinosaur relationships. The project will focus on building a high quality dataset for studying the early evolution of Dinosaurs and their close relatives and interrogating the phylogenetic signal it contains. Once a new phylogeny has been generated it will also be used to assess current theories about dinosaur macroevolution and biogeography.