Paleontological research at Mason focuses on the origin and evolution of marine mammals, in particular, cetaceans (whales and dolphins). We have also had students work on theropod dinosaurs, crocodylians, birds, and even insects. At Mason, we study major evolutionary transitions, diversity, and the relationships of fossil organisms to climate change. Much of our work focuses on archaeocete cetaceans, stem cetaceans that gave rise to all modern whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Paleontological fieldwork has taken Mason faculty and students around the globe to collect fossils in Alaska, the Gulf Coast of the US, the Pacific Coast of the US, Peru, Egypt, and West Africa, among others. Much of our research also uses the Paleobiology Database, a global community project to database all of the fossil occurrences on the planet. There you can find all published occurrence of fossil marine mammals in one place, along with their associated geologic and environmental data. Click here if you are interested in joining the PBDB effort.
Ongoing Research Projects (faculty)
Selected Publications on Mason Paleontology
(Churchill and Uhen, 2019; Close et al., 2020; Hudgins et al., 2020; Jukar et al., 2018; Lukes et al., 2019; Marx et al., 2016; Nelson and Uhen, 2020; Peredo et al., 2018; Peredo et al., 2017; Uhen, 2018; Williams et al., 2019)
Churchill, M., and Uhen, M. D., 2019, Taxonomic implications of morphometric analysis of earless seal limb bones: Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, v. 64, no. 2, p. 213–230.
Close, R. A., Benson, R. B. J., Alroy, J., Carrano, M. T., Cleary, T. J., Dunne, E. M., Mannion, P. D., Uhen, M. D., and Butler, R. J., 2020, The apparent exponential radiation of Phanerozoic land vertebrates is an artefact of spatial sampling biases: Proceedings of the Royal Society B, v. 287, no. 1924, p. 20200372.
Hudgins, M. N., Uhen, M. D., and Hinnov, L. A., 2020, The evolution of respiratory systems in Theropoda and Paracrocodylomorpha, the end-Triassic extinction, and the role of Late Triassic atmospheric O2 and CO2: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 545.
Jukar, A. M., Lyons, S. K., and Uhen, M. D., 2018, A cranial correlate of body mass in proboscideans: Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
Lukes, L. A., Ryker, K., Millsaps, C., Lockwood, R., Uhen, M. D., George, C. O., Bentley, C., and Berquist, P. J., 2019, Leveraging a Large Database to Increase Access to Undergraduate Research Experiences: Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research, v. 2, no. 4, p. 4-13.
Marx, F. G., Lambert, O., and Uhen, M. D., 2016, Cetacean Paleobiology, Oxford, Wiley Blackwell, Topics In Paleobiology, 319 p.:
Nelson, M. D., and Uhen, M. D., 2020, A new platanistoid Perditicetus yaconensis gen. et sp. nov. (Cetacea, Odontoceti) from the Chattian–Aquitanian Nye Formation of Oregon: Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, p. 1-21.
Peredo, C. M., Pyenson, N. D., Marshall, C. D., and Uhen, M. D., 2018, Tooth loss precedes the origin of baleen in whales: Current Biology, v. 28, p. 1-9.
Peredo, C. M., Pyenson, N. D., Uhen, M. D., and Marshall, C. D., 2017, Alveoli, teeth, and tooth loss: Understanding the homology of internal mandibular structures in mysticete cetaceans: PLoS One, v. 12, no. 5, p. e0178243.
Uhen, M. D., 2018, Basilosaurids and kekenodontids, in Würsig, B., Thewissen, J. G. M., and Kovacs, K. M., eds., Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals: London, Academic Press, p. 78-80.
Williams, J., Goring, S., Grimm, E., Smith, A., and Uhen, M. D., 2019, Building big data and open science from the long tail: Community-curated data resources, Neotoma Paleoecology data-base, and the Earth-Life Consortium: PaleoBios, v. 36, no. 0, p. 369-370.
Student opportunities described below; contact the indicated faculty for details.
Undergraduate Research Opportunities
Undergraduates may work with faculty on the above research projects, or on projects developed independently by the student, supported by OSCAR or as independent research credits.
Graduate Research Opportunities
Graduates may work with faculty on the research projects with support from a GRA (when available), a College of Science GTA, or a successful Graduate Fellowship.