UCL Earth Sciences


Clone of Vertebrate Palaeontology

Content Pending

Vertebrate palaeontology is the study of the fossil record of organisms with a backbone (Chordates). Vertebrate groups range from the first marine fish through the earliest air-breathing amphibians through to fully terrestrial reptiles and mammals.

Vertebrate Palaeontology

A detailed examination of ancient vertebrate fossils can give us an insight to patterns of evolution, ecology and ontogeny as well as providing information through isotopic analysis of recent changes in climate.

Research Projects:

Walking the cat back: Evolutionary mechanics and modularity of felid locomotion

In studying the evolution of vertebrate locomotion, the focus for centuries has been on limb evolution.  Despite significant evolutionary and developmental integration of the limbs, vertebrae, and girdles, no biomechanical studies have ever examined the entire postcranial skeleton or explicitly considered the genetic and developmental processes that underlie morphological variation, which are captured in phenotypic correlations.  In this project, we are conducting biomechanical and geometric morphometric analyses of living and fossil cats, including the only large, crouching mammals, to study the evolution of locomotion, the mechanical consequences of size-related morphological evolution, and the evolution of integration and modularity in the postcranial musculo-skeletal system

Testing the relationship between latitude and biodiversity in the Cretaceous

The aim of this project is to examine a modern biodiversity pattern, the Latitudinal Biodiversity Gradient (LBGs) whereby species numbers are higher nearer the equator. Studies of this pattern in the terrestrial rock record are rare and as such we are compiling a database of terrestrial vertebrates in the Cretaceous to examine this in detail.


Group members

Academic staff

Prof Paul Upchurch

UCL Collaborators

Mark Bell

General Enquiries:

Prof Paul Upchurch
+44 (0)20