Michael Benton

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Michael Benton

Professor Michael Benton FRS.jpg
Michael Benton at the Royal Society admissions day in London in 2014
Michael James Benton

(1956-04-08) 8 April 1956 (age 67)[1]
EducationRobert Gordon's College
Alma mater
Known forBentonyx
AwardsLyell Medal (2005)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Bristol
ThesisThe Triassic reptile Hyperodapedon from Elgin, functional morphology and relationships (1981)

Michael James Benton OBE FRS FRSE[3][4] (born 8 April 1956[1]) is a British palaeontologist, and professor of vertebrate palaeontology in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.[5][6][7] His published work has mostly concentrated on the evolution of Triassic reptiles but he has also worked on extinction events and faunal changes in the fossil record.[2][8][9]


Benton was educated at Robert Gordon's College,[citation needed] the University of Aberdeen[1] and Newcastle University where he was awarded a PhD in 1981.[10][11]

Research and career[edit]

Benton's research investigates palaeobiology, palaeontology, and macroevolution.[2][12][13] His research interests include: diversification of life, quality of the fossil record, shapes of phylogenies, age-clade congruence, mass extinctions,[14] Triassic ecosystem evolution, basal diapsid phylogeny, basal archosaurs, and the origin of the dinosaurs. He has made fundamental contributions to understanding the history of life, particularly concerning how biodiversity changes through time.[3] He has led in integrating data from living and fossil organisms to generate phylogenies – solutions to the question of how major groups originated and diversified through time.[3] This approach has revolutionised the understanding of major questions, including the relative roles of internal and external drivers on the history of life, whether diversity reaches saturation, the significance of mass extinctions, and how major clades radiate.[3] A key theme is the Permian–Triassic extinction event, the largest mass extinction of all time, which took place over 250 million years ago, where he investigates how life was able to recover from such a devastating event.[3]

Benton is the author of several palaeontology text books (e.g. Vertebrate Palaeontology) and children's books on the theme of dinosaurs.[15] His work has been published in a variety of journals.[2][16][17][18][19] Benton has also advised on many media productions including BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs and was a programme consultant for Paleoworld on Discovery Science. He also contributed to the 2002 BBC programme The Day The Earth Nearly Died, which featured scientists and dealt with the mysteries of the Permian extinction.

In December 2010, Benton had a rhynchosaur (Bentonyx) named in his honour.[20]

Benton founded the Master of Science degree programme in Palaeobiology at Bristol in 1996, from which more than 300 students have graduated.[3] He has supervised more than 50 PhD students.[3]

As the Initiator of the Bristol Dinosaur Project Brenton was also involved with creating and designing the website for the project.[21]


  • Dinosaurs an A-Z Guide (1988, Kingfisher) ISBN 978-0862723859
  • The phylogeny and classification of the tetrapods (1998, ed. Volumes 1 and 2)[ISBN missing]
  • Prehistoric Animals (1989, Kingfisher) ISBN 978-0862724580
  • Vertebrate Palaeontology (4th edition, 2014, Wiley-Blackwell) ISBN 978-1118407554
  • On the trail of the dinosaur (1989, Quarto Publishing) ISBN 0-517-67976-0
  • The reign of the reptiles (1991)[ISBN missing]
  • The rise of the mammals (1991)[ISBN missing]
  • The fossil record 2 (1993, ed.)[ISBN missing]
  • Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder (1993)[ISBN missing]
  • Fossil reptiles of Great Britain (1995, with P. S. Spencer)[ISBN missing]
  • The Viking atlas of evolution (1997, with R. Osborne)[ISBN missing]
  • The Penguin historical atlas of the dinosaurs (1997)[ISBN missing]
  • Basic Palaeontology (1997, with D. A. T. Harper) ISBN 0-582-22857-3
  • Walking with dinosaurs: the facts (2000) ISBN 0-563-53744-2
  • The age of dinosaurs in Russia and Mongolia (2000, ed., with D. M. Unwin, M. A. Shishkin and E. N. Kurochkin)[ISBN missing]
  • Permian and Triassic red beds and the Penarth Group of Great Britain (2002, with E. Cook and P. J. Turner)[ISBN missing]
  • When life nearly died: the greatest mass extinction of all time (1st edition, 2003; 2nd edition, 2008)[22]
  • Mesozoic and Tertiary fossil mammals and birds of Great Britain (2005, with L. Cook, D. Schreve, A Currant, and J. J. Hooker) ISBN 9781861074805
  • Introduction to Paleobiology and the Fossil Record (2009, with David A.T Harper) ISBN 9781405141574
  • The first four billion years Benton, Michael J. (2009). "Paleontology and the History of Life". In Michael Ruse; Joseph Travis (eds.). Evolution: The First Four Billion Years. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. pp. 80–104. ISBN 978-0-674-03175-3.
  • The Dinosaurs Rediscovered: How a Scientific Revolution is Rewriting History, (2019) ISBN 978-0500052006

Honours and awards[edit]

Benton was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2014 for "substantial contributions to the improvement of natural knowledge"[3] and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE).[when?]

He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2021 Birthday Honours for services to palaeontology and community engagement.[23]


  1. ^ a b c d Anon (2015). "Benton, Prof. Michael James". Who's Who. ukwhoswho.com (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U43387. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d Michael Benton publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Anon (2014). "Professor Michael Benton FRS". royalsociety.org. London: Royal Society. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    "All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies at the Wayback Machine (archived 2016-11-11)

  4. ^ "Home – The Royal Society of Edinburgh" (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. 20 June 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 May 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  5. ^ Liz Loeffler. "People: Earth Sciences: University of Bristol". bris.ac.uk.
  6. ^ Official website Edit this at Wikidata
  7. ^ "Professor Mike Benton – School of Earth Sciences". Bristol.ac.uk. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  8. ^ Benton, M. J. (2009). "The Red Queen and the Court Jester: Species diversity and the role of biotic and abiotic factors through time". Science. 323 (5915): 728–32. Bibcode:2009Sci...323..728B. doi:10.1126/science.1157719. PMID 19197051. S2CID 206512702.
  9. ^ Lloyd, G. T.; Davis, K. E.; Pisani, D.; Tarver, J. E.; Ruta, M.; Sakamoto, M.; Hone, D. W. E.; Jennings, R.; Benton, M. J. (2008). "Dinosaurs and the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 275 (1650): 2483–90. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.0715. PMC 2603200. PMID 18647715.
  10. ^ Benton, Michael James (1981). The Triassic reptile Hyperodapedon from Elgin, functional morphology and relationships. jisc.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Newcastle upon Tyne. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.238091.
  11. ^ Benton, Michael James (1983). "The Triassic Reptile Hyperodapedon from Elgin: Functional Morphology and Relationships". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 302 (1112): 605–718. Bibcode:1983RSPTB.302..605B. doi:10.1098/rstb.1983.0079. ISSN 0962-8436.
  12. ^ Benton, M. J.; Emerson, B. C. (2007). "How Did Life Become So Diverse? The Dynamics of Diversification According to the Fossil Record and Molecular Phylogenetics". Palaeontology. 50: 23–40. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2006.00612.x.
  13. ^ Benton, M. J.; Donoghue, P. C. J. (2006). "Paleontological Evidence to Date the Tree of Life". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 24 (1): 26–53. doi:10.1093/molbev/msl150. PMID 17047029.
  14. ^ World Archipelago. "Macmillan". macmillan.com.
  15. ^ "Thames & Hudson Publishers – Essential illustrated art books – Michael J. Benton". thamesandhudson.com. Archived from the original on 15 April 2010.
  16. ^ Sahney, S.; Benton, M. J.; Falcon-Lang, H. J. (2010). "Rainforest collapse triggered Carboniferous tetrapod diversification in Euramerica". Geology. 38 (12): 1079–1082. Bibcode:2010Geo....38.1079S. doi:10.1130/G31182.1.
  17. ^ Sahney, S; Benton, M. J.; Ferry, P. A. (2010). "Links between global taxonomic diversity, ecological diversity and the expansion of vertebrates on land". Biology Letters. 6 (4): 544–7. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.1024. PMC 2936204. PMID 20106856.
  18. ^ Sahney, S; Benton, M. J. (2008). "Recovery from the most profound mass extinction of all time". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 275 (1636): 759–65. doi:10.1098/rspb.2007.1370. PMC 2596898. PMID 18198148.
  19. ^ "Search". Archived from the original on 8 January 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  20. ^ "Bristol University – Alumni and friends – 2011: Introducing Bentonyx". bristol.ac.uk.
  21. ^ "The Bristol Dinosaur Project - Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol". web.archive.org. 30 September 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  22. ^ Bowler, P. J. (2003). "Suffocated or shot?". Nature. 423 (6938): 384. Bibcode:2003Natur.423..384B. doi:10.1038/423384a. Review of When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time
  23. ^ "No. 63377". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2021. p. B11.

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