Joseph Sertich, PhD

Dr. Joseph Sertich is a vertebrate paleontologist who looks at the effects of global changes, like climate and shifting continents, on the evolution of dinosaurs and crocodiles. During the Mesozoic, shifting continents and fluctuating sea levels created a dynamic global system, influencing the distribution of animals and the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems. New fossil discoveries in western North America, Madagascar, and Africa are the focus of his research.

  • POSITIONCurator of Vertebrate Paleontology
  • EXPERTISE Crocodile and Dinosaur Evolution
  • PhD

    Stony Brook University

  • PHONE NUMBER 303.370.6331
  • EMAILjoe.sertich@dmns.org

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1

    Sertich, J.J.W., Loewen, M.A. 2010 A new basal sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Lower Jurassic Navajo Sandstone of southern Utah. PLoS ONE 5(3): e9789. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009789

  • 2

    O'Connor, P.M., Sertich, J.J.W., Stevens, N.J., Roberts, E.M., Jinnah, Z.A., Ridgely, R., Hieronymus, T.L., Gottfried, M.D., Ngasala, S.E., Temba, J. 2010. The evolution of mammal-like crocodyliforms in Gondwana: new evidence from the Cretaceous of Tanzania. Nature 466:748-751

  • 3

    Sertich, J.J.W., Groenke, J.R. 2010. The postcranial appendicular skeleton of Simosuchus clarki (Crocodyliformes: Notosuchia) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar; pp. 122-153 in D.W. Krause and N.J. Kley (eds.), Simosuchus clarki (Crocodyliformes: Notosuchia) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30 (6, Supplement)

  • 4

    Turner, A.H., Sertich, J.J.W. 2010. Phylogeny and biogeography of Simosuchus clarki (Crocodyliformes: Notosuchia) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar; pp. 177-236 in D.W. Krause and N.J. Kley (eds.), Simosuchus clarki (Crocodyliformes: Notosuchia) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30 (6, Supplement).

  • 5

    O'Connor, P.M., Sertich J.J.W., Manthi F.K. 2011. A pterodactyloid pterosaur from the Upper Cretaceous Lapurr sandstone, West Turkana, Kenya. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 83:309-315.

CURRENT PROJECTS

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Kaiparowits Basin Project

The Kaiparowits Basin Project, led by Dr. Scott Sampson of the Utah Museum of Natural History, focuses on the geology and paleontology of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). Located in an extremely remote and wild area, GSENM spans nearly 1.9 million acres of southern Utah. Stunning and expansive exposures of Cretaceous-aged rocks in the monument preserve a record of past life between 95 and 74 million years ago, and represent one of the least explored dinosaur bone yards in the United States. Most of the fossils being discovered are new to science and are among the best preserved representatives of their kind in North America.

Research associated with the Kaiparowits Basin Project is multi-faceted, ranging from geological investigations into the deposition and age of the rocks to descriptions of new animal and plant species. Dr. Kirk Johnson and Dr. Ian Miller of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science have been involved in paleobotanical exploration and excavation as part of this effort.

Dr. Joseph Sertich's research currently focuses on descriptions of new dinosaur and crocodile species. Specifically, he is working with colleagues on new tyrannosaurid dinosaurs, large meat-eaters closely related to the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex. These descriptions are coupled with investigations into the biogeographic history of the region as an important record of the western North American landmass of Laramidia.

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Turkana Basin Project

Famous for its incredibly rich record of human evolution over the past 7 million years, the Turkana Basin of northern Kenya also preserves much older rocks containing the remains of some of the last dinosaurs present on the African continent. Since 2004, Dr. Joseph Sertich's work in the Late Cretaceous outcrops of the Lapurr Range in northwestern Turkana have focused on the collection of vertebrate fossils and understanding the geology of this spectacular and important region. The remains of theropod, sauropod, and ornithopod dinosaurs, crocodyliforms, and pterosaurs are among the most significant finds to date. In collaboration with Dr. Erik Seiffert of Stony Brook University and Dr. Fredrick Kyalo Manthi of the National Museums of Kenya, and in partnership with the Turkana Basin Institute, they are working to address questions surrounding a number of significant evolutionary events, including the origin and diversification of various vertebrate groups in Africa and the evolutionary relationships of Africa's last dinosaurs.

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Spectacular fossils of dinosaurs and other vertebrates have long been found in rocks deposited in the "middle" Cretaceous of Africa, a time period ranging from about 125 to 90 million years ago. However, the vertebrate fossil record of Africa after this period in time is not well understood. 

The incredibly remote and rugged Western Desert of Egypt has spectacular exposures of fossil-bearing rocks from this poorly known time period, and promises to provide a rare glimpse into this moment of African history. Collaboration with Dr. Hesham Sallam and other colleagues at Mansoura University, Dr. Erik Seiffert of Stony Brook University, and Dr. Patrick O'Connor of Ohio University has resulted in the discovery of new dinosaur and crocodile remains, some of the first of their kind from the latest Cretaceous of Africa. Ongoing work focuses on the description of these important new fossils and the training of future Egyptian paleontologists.

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Though separated from the southeast coast of Africa by less than 300 miles, the island of Madagascar has been isolated for more than 88 million years. Discoveries in the Mahajanga Basin of northwestern Madagascar have revealed an incredibly diverse and well-preserved fauna of more than 50 species of bony fishes, frogs, turtles, lizards, snakes, crocodyliforms, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals that thrived in Madagascar approximately 66 million years ago. Many of these species are new to science, and many represent extremely bizarre forms including the plant eating crocodile Simosuchus clarki, the giant frog Beelzebufo ampinga, and the very bird-like dinosaur Rahonavis ostromi. This research, led by Dr. David Krause of Stony Brook University, has provided important information on the anatomy and relationships of many of these fossil animals and has documented the geological setting and history of the region. Ongoing work includes the description of several other new or poorly known species, including an incredibly diverse assemblage of crocodiles.

Other research in the Ambilobe Basin of northern-most Madagascar and the Morondava Basin of southwestern Madagascar has recovered new dinosaur species older than those known from the Mahajanga Basin. These fossils provide a window into Madagascar between about 90 and 70 million years ago, and hold the potential for many exciting new discoveries to come.

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