Michael Benton

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Michael Benton
Professor Michael Benton FRS.jpg
Michael Benton in 2014, portrait via the Royal Society
Born Michael James Benton
(1956-04-09) April 9, 1956 (age 59)[1]
Residence England
Nationality British
Institutions University of Bristol
Alma mater
Thesis The Triassic reptile Hyperodapedon from Elgin, functional morphology and relationships (1981)
Doctoral students
Notable awards

Michael James Benton FRS[4] (born 9 April 1956) is a British palaeontologist, and professor of vertebrate palaeontology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.[5] 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][6][7]


Benton was educated at the University of Aberdeen and Newcastle University where he was awarded a PhD in 1981.


Benton's research investigates palaeobiology, palaeontology, and macroevolution.[2][8][9] Benton is the author of several palaeontology text books (e.g. Vertebrate Palaeontology) and children's books.[10] He has also advised on many media productions including BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs and was a program consultant for Paleoworld on Discovery Science. His research interests include: diversification of life, quality of the fossil record, shapes of phylogenies, age-clade congruence, mass extinctions,[11] Triassic ecosystem evolution, basal diapsid phylogeny, basal archosaurs, and the origin of the dinosaurs.

Benton has also been contributing in some documentaries. One of these was BBCs 2002 program The Day The Earth Nearly Died, which feature scientists as the deal with the mysteries of the Permian extinction. In December 2010, Benton got a rhynchosaur named Bentonyx in his honour.[12] His work appears in a variety of journals.[13][14][15][16]


  • The phylogeny and classification of the tetrapods (1998, ed. Volumes 1 and 2)
  • Prehistoric Animals (1989)
  • Vertebrate palaeontology (1st edition, 1990; 2nd edition, 1997; 3rd edition, 2005; 4th edition, 2014)
  • On the trail of the dinosaurs (1990)
  • The reign of the reptiles (1991)
  • The rise of the mammals (1991)
  • The fossil record 2 (1993, ed.)
  • Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder (1993)
  • Fossil reptiles of Great Britain (1995, with P. S. Spencer)
  • The Viking atlas of evolution (1997, with R. Osborne)
  • The Penguin historical atlas of the dinosaurs (1997)
  • Basic Palaeontology (1997, with D. A. T. Harper)
  • Walking with dinosaurs: the facts (2000)
  • The age of dinosaurs in Russia and Mongolia (2000, ed., with D. M. Unwin, M. A. Shishkin and E. N. Kurochkin)
  • Permian and Triassic red beds and the Penarth Group of Great Britain (2002, with E. Cook and P. J. Turner)
  • When life nearly died: the greatest mass extinction of all time (1st edition, 2003; 2nd edition, 2008)[17]
  • Mesozoic and Tertiary fossil mammals and birds of Great Britain (2005, with L. Cook, D. Schreve, A Currant, and J. J. Hooker)
  • Introduction to Paleobiology and the Fossil Record (2009, with David A.T Harper)
  • The first four billion years Benton, Michael J. (2009). "Paleontology and the History of Life". In Michael Ruse & Joseph Travis. Evolution: The First Four Billion Years. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. pp. 80–104. ISBN 978-0-674-03175-3. 

Awards and honours[edit]

Benton was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2014. His nomination reads:[4]

Michael Benton has made fundamental contributions to understanding the history of life, particularly biodiversity fluctuations through time. 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. This approach has revolutionised our understanding of major questions, including the relative roles of intrinsic and extrinsic factors on the history of life, whether diversity reaches saturation, the significance of mass extinctions, and how major clades radiate. His research themes: a) diversification of life; b) phylogeny of diapsids and dinosaurs; c) dating the tree of life.


  1. ^ BENTON, Prof. Michael James. Who's Who 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c Michael Benton's publications indexed by Google Scholar, a service provided by Google
  3. ^ http://www.royalsoced.org.uk/fellowship/fellows.pdf
  4. ^ a b c "Professor Michael Benton FRS". royalsociety.org. 
  5. ^ Liz Loeffler. "People: Earth Sciences: University of Bristol". bris.ac.uk. 
  6. ^ 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. doi:10.1126/science.1157719. PMID 19197051. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Benton, M. J.; Donoghue, P. C. J. (2006). "Paleontological Evidence to Date the Tree of Life". Molecular Biology and Evolution 24: 26–53. doi:10.1093/molbev/msl150. PMID 17047029. 
  10. ^ "Thames & Hudson Publishers - Essential illustrated art books - Michael J. Benton". thamesandhudson.com. 
  11. ^ World Archipelago. "Macmillan". macmillan.com. 
  12. ^ "Bristol University - Alumni and friends - 2011: Introducing Bentonyx". bristol.ac.uk. 
  13. ^ Sahney, S.; Benton, M. J.; Falcon-Lang, H. J. (2010). "Rainforest collapse triggered Carboniferous tetrapod diversification in Euramerica". Geology 38 (12): 1079–1082. doi:10.1130/G31182.1. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ http://www.newscientist.com/search?rbauthors=Michael+Benton
  17. ^ Bowler, P. J. (2003). "Suffocated or shot?". Nature 423 (6938): 384. doi:10.1038/423384a.  Review of When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time