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Alexander Kellner was born in Liechtenstein, in his early childhood moving with his parents to Brazil, where he was naturalized. In Rio de Janeiro he received a primary and secondary education at the bilingual Escola Corcovado. In 1981 he began to study geology at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. As a student he soon got involved in the research of fossil vertebrates, especially pterosaur specimens from the Santana Formation, on which he published many papers in the late eighties. He earned a Master of Science degree in geology at UFRJ in 1991, and a M. Phil. in 1994 and the Ph.D. in 1996 from the Columbia University (New York) in a joint program with the American Museum of Natural History. In 1997 he became professor at the Museu Nacional, the Brazilian National Museum that is part of the UFRJ, the largest university of Brazil and curator of the geological and paleontological department of that institution. From 1998 to 2001, he served as the chairman of the department and from 2008 is heading the zoology graduate program. Kellner is also chief editor of the Annals of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the official publication of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.
Part of his working with fossil reptiles, particularly pterosaurs, entailed organizing the Pterosaur Workshop in Pittsburgh (1995) and the first Pterosaur Symposium ever held at the American Museum of Natural History (1996). Furthermore, he was involved in the organization of several scientific meetings in Brazil such as the 31st International Geological Congress (Rio de Janeiro, 2000) and the 2nd Latin-American Congress of Vertebrate Paleontology (Rio de Janeiro, 2005).
Kellner has organized or taken part in several paleontological expeditions to many locations around the globe, including Brazil – Mato Grosso, Rio Grande do Sul and Ceará –, the deserts of Atacama, Chile and Kerman, Iran, the famous deposits of Liaoning, China, and even to James Ross Island in Antarctica.
Kellner has over five hundred publications on his name (including abstracts and popular science articles), he has published more than 160 primary studies and two popular science books: Pterossauros - os senhores do céu do Brasil ("Pterosaurs — lords of the Brazilian sky") and the novel Na terra dos titãs ("In the land of the titans"). He also took part in documentaries regarding fossils (e.g., Antarctica - a summer of 70 million years; Dinosaur Hunters).
Due to his scientific activity he received several honours, being appointed a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences in 1996. He is also honourable member of the New York Paleontologial Society and the Sociedad Paleontológica de Chile. He is a research associate of the American Museum of Natural History and of the Chinese Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP).
Besides his teaching activity, having advised over fifteen master and Ph.D. students, Kellner has been active in the propagation of scientific knowledge to the general population. He organized in 1999 the exposition No Tempo dos Dinossauros ("In the Time of the Dinosaurs"), which has been regarded as a landmark for the establishment of paleontology in Brazil, attracting the attention of the Brazilian Society for the studies of fossils. He also in 2006 organized the mounting of the first large-scale dinosaur skeleton in Brazil, that of the sauropod Maxakalisaurus topai, for which he received recognition from the Brazilian Congress. Since 2004 he writes monthly in the column Caçadores de Fósseis, "Fossil Hunters", of the site Ciência Hoje On Line, a project of the Brazilian Society for Scientific Progress
Apart from studying their fossils, Kellner has performed important theoretical work on pterosaurs, including cladistic studies regarding their phylogeny. In this he is the founder of a distinctive Brazilian school of the study of pterosaurs, with its own favoured phylogenetic model, clade terminology and nomenclature. Rivalling models and nomenclatural choices have been provided by the influential British pterosaur researcher David Unwin.
For his achievements he received several honors and prizes, including the Earth Sciences Prize of the TWAS (Academy of Sciences for the Developing World) and was admitted in the Ordem Nacional do Mérito Científico (class Comendador), one of the most prestigious recognition of the Brazilian Government.
List of species named by Kellner
Kellner's scientific achievements include the description of more than thirty species, among which Santanaraptor (1996, 1999) that shows among the best soft tissue (blood vessels, muscle fibers) reported in any dinosaur and Thalassodromeus (2002, a study done with Diogenes de Almeida Campos) that allowed the establishment of a new hypothesis regarding the use of the head crest in body temperature regulation of pterosaurs.
A complete list of new species described and named by Kellner, sometimes in cooperation with other researchers, includes:
- Brasileodactylus araripensis Kellner, 1984 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Anhanguera blittersdorffi Campos & Kellner, 1985 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Oshunia brevis Wenz & Kellner, 1986 (Pisces, Halecomorphi).
- Caririsuchus camposi Kellner, 1987 (Reptilia, Crocodylia)
- Tupuxuara longicristatus Kellner & Campos, 1988 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Tapejara wellnhoferi Kellner, 1989 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Tupuxuara leonardii Kellner & Campos, 1994 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Angaturama limai Kellner & Campos, 1996 (Reptilia, Dinosauria)
- Ongghonia dashzevegi Kellner & McKenna, 1996 (Mammalia, Leptictidae)
- Tupandactylus imperator (Campos & Kellner, 1997) (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Siroccopteryx moroccensis Mader & Kellner, 1999 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Gondwanatitan faustoi Kellner & Azevedo, 1999 (Reptilia, Dinosauria)
- Santanaraptor placidus Kellner, 1999 (Reptilia, Dinosauria)
- Anhanguera piscator Kellner & Tomida, 2000 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Stratiotosuchus maxhechti Campos, Suarez, Riff & Kellner, 2001 (Reptilia, Crocodylia)
- Thalassodromeus sethi Kellner & Campos, 2002 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Pycnonemosaurus nevesi Kellner & Campos, 2002 (Reptilia, Dinosauria)
- Kaikaifilusaurus calvoi Simón & Kellner, 2003. (Reptilia, Sphenodontia)
- Unaysaurus tolentinoi Leal, L.A., Azevedo, S.A., Kellner, A.W.A. & Rosa, Á.A.S., 2004 (Reptilia, Dinosauria)
- Unenlagia paynemili Calvo, J.O., Porfiri, J. & Kellner, A.W.A., 2004 (Reptilia, Dinosauria)
- Feilongus youngi Wang, Kellner, Zhou & Campos, 2005 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Nurhachius ignaciobritoi Wang, Kellner, Zhou & Campos, 2005 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Baurutitan britoi Kellner, A.W.A., Campos, D. A., Trotta, M. N. F. 2005 (Reptilia, Dinosauria)
- Trigonosaurus pricei Campos, D.A., Kellner, A.W.A., Bertini, R.J., Santucci, R.M. 2005 (Reptilia, Dinosauria)
- Caririemys violetae Oliveira, G.R. & Kellner, A.W.A. 2007 (Reptilia, Testudines)
- Gegepterus changi Wang, Kellner, Zhou & Campos, 2007 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Futalognkosaurus dukei Calvo, J.O., Porfiri, J., González-Riga, B.J. & Kellner, A.W.A., 2007 (Reptilia, Dinosauria)
- Nemicolopterus crypticus Wang, Kellner, Zhou & Campos, 2008 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Guarinisuchus munizi Barbosa, Kellner & Viana, 2008 (Reptilia, Crocodylia)
- Hongshanopterus lacustris Wang, Zhou, Campos & Kellner, 2008 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Coringasuchus anisodontis Kellner, A.W.A., Pinheiro, A.E.P., Azevedo, S.A.K., Henriques, D.D.R., Carvalho, L.B. & Oliveira, G. 2009 (Reptilia, Crocodylia)
- Wukongopterus lii Wang, Kellner, Jiang, Meng 2009 (Reptilia, Pterosauria)
- Pterosaur's Wing, "Hairs" Unlike Any Living Animals, Charles Q. Choi, for National Geographic News (August 4, 2009)
- Members of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences http://www.abc.org.br/resultado.php3?codigo=kellner
- Museu Nacional/UFRJ - http://acd.ufrj.br/mndgp/kellner/p/index.html