Michael S. Engel

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Michael S. Engel
Born (1971-09-24) September 24, 1971 (age 43)
Creve Coeur, Missouri, U.S.
Residence U.S.
Nationality American
Institutions University of Kansas (2000-)
American Museum of Natural History (1998–2000)
Alma mater Cornell University (Ph.D, 1998)
University of Kansas (B.Sc., 1993)
University of Kansas (B.A., 1993)
Doctoral advisor James K. Liebherr (Cornell University)
Other academic advisors George C. Eickwort, Thomas D. Seeley, Richard Harrison, Charles D. Michener
Notable awards Guggenheim Fellow (2006)
Charles Schuchert Award (2008)
Bicentenary Medal (2009)
Spouse Kellie Kristen Magill (m. 2009)

Michael S. Engel, FLS (born September 24, 1971) is an American paleontologist and entomologist, notable for contributions to insect evolutionary biology and classification. In connection with his studies he has undertaken field expeditions in Central Asia, Asia Minor, the Levant, Arabia, eastern Africa, the high Arctic, and South and North America, and has published more than 580 papers in scientific journals.[1] He was trained at the University of Kansas where in 1993 he received a B.Sc. in Physiology & Cell Biology and a B.A. in Chemistry, and at Cornell University where in 1998 he obtained his Ph.D. in Entomology. In 2006 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work in insect paleontology. Engel is an authority on the geological history, phylogeny, and taxonomy of insects, and made particular contributions to the systematics of living and fossil Zoraptera, Isoptera, Dermaptera, Raphidioptera, Neuroptera, and Hymenoptera, most notably the bees, including the honey bees (genus Apis). Some of Engel's research images were included in exhibitions on the aesthetic value of scientific imagery.[2] Engel has discovered and described over 250 new genera/subgenera and over 625 new species of living and fossil arthropods, mostly insects but also Onychophora and Arachnida.

His academic positions have included that of a Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York; Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and Paleontological Society; and joint appointments as Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Courtesy Professor in the Department of Geology, and Curator-in-Charge (Senior Curator) in the Division of Entomology and Courtesy Senior Curator in the Division of Invertebrate Paleontology of the Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas.

With David Grimaldi, also an insect systematist and paleontologist, he co-authored Evolution of the Insects (2005), an influential book that reinvigorated the study of insect paleontology and broadly synthesized information on insect evolution.

Early life and education[edit]

Engel was born in Creve Coeur, Missouri to Donna Gail Engel (née Pratt), a former music instructor and organist, and Rev. Alger Gayle Engel, a former minister active within the United Church of Christ. The family soon moved from their home in Washington, Missouri to Phoenix, Arizona before relocating a few years later to Walnut Creek, California. Eventually, the household settled in Wichita, Kansas where Engel completed high school, graduating in 1989 from Wichita High School Southeast. Engel was the eldest of three children, his siblings being Elisabeth Anne Engel (born 1975), one-time Curator of Artifacts for the Waukesha County Historical Society & Museum in Wisconsin, and Jeffrey Gayle Engel (born 1980).

In 1989 Engel moved to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas and completed undergraduate study in Chemistry and Cellular Biology. While in Lawrence he was greatly influenced by Charles D. Michener, Byron A. Alexander, and Orley R. Taylor, and shifted his career path to entomology. Engel moved to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and in 1998 completed doctoral studies in Systematic Entomology. His doctoral work comprised a comparative morphological and behavioral review of the New World bee tribe Augochlorini (Halictidae), including an overview of their fossil diversity, phylogeny, historical biogeography, and classification.

Engel married Kellie Kristen Magill on April 25, 2009, in a ceremony performed by Engel's father.[3]


Engel’s paid academic career officially began in 1998 with an appointment as Research Scientist in the Department of Entomology (later the Division of Invertebrate Zoology) at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, New York. Upon departing the American Museum in 2000 he was appointed as Research Associate. Engel returned to the University of Kansas in 2000 with joint appointments in the Department of Entomology, the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and the Division of Entomology in the University’s Natural History Museum. At the close of that year the Department of Entomology was merged with the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. In 2005 Engel was granted continuous tenure and promoted to Associate Professor/Associate Curator, followed by promotion to full Professor and Senior Curator in 2008. In addition to his regular appointments, Engel was appointed as Courtesy Senior Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology (2006) and Courtesy Professor in the Department of Geology (2008). In 2000 he was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, and in 2008 a Fellow of the Paleontological Society.

Along with fellow paleontologist and entomologist David A. Grimaldi, Curator at the American Museum, Engel published in 2005 a comprehensive overview of insect evolutionary history (Evolution of the Insects, Cambridge University Press). This work synthesized for the first time the fossil record of insects with the wealth of information on the biology and ecology of the modern diversity.

In 2006–2007 Engel resumed regular activity in the American Museum of Natural History while a Guggenheim Fellow,[4] completing work on the geological history of termites and their influence on carbon recycling in paleoenvironments. This period also permitted significant work on the comprehensive work, Treatise on the Termites of the World.[5] In 2008 he received the Charles Schuchert Award of the Paleontological Society and subsequently the Bicentenary Medal of the Linnean Society of London (2009) for his contributions to the fields of systematic entomology and paleontology. In Spring 2014 he was awarded the Scholarly Achievement Award of the University of Kansas for his contributions to the evolutionary and developmental origins of insect flight.[6]

Engel has been instrumental[peacock term] in the recognition of phylogenetically important insect lineages such as the North American family Tricholepidiidae and the disjunct primitive termite family Archotermopsidae. He was one of the first to incorporate fossil species into cladistic studies of bee and termite diversity and social evolution, a body of work now being expanded upon by various others.[citation needed] His work was influential for broader studies of insect paleontology, phylogeny, evolution, and classification.[citation needed]

Awards and honors[edit]

Engel's scientific honors included:


The following species or genera have been proposed in honor of Dr. Engel:

  1. Lasioglossum (Dialictus) engeli Genaro, 2001 (a halictine bee from Cuba)
  2. Braunsapis engeli Jobiraj, 2004 (a small allodapine bee from southern India)
  3. Cretostylops engeli Grimaldi & Kathirithamby, 2005 (the oldest fossil Strepsiptera, from Myanmar)
  4. Sigmophlebia engeli Béthoux & Beckemeyer, 2007 (a protorthopteran from the Early Permian of Oklahoma)
  5. Triepeolus engeli Rightmyer, 2008 (an epeoline bee from Texas)
  6. Archaeoellipes engeli Heads, 2010 (a pygmy mole cricket from the Early Miocene of the Dominican Republic)
  7. Anotylus engeli Makranczy, 2011 (an oxyteline rove beetle from Bolivia)
  8. Engellestes Nel & al., 2012 (a genus of damselfly-like odonates from the Permian of Russia)
  9. Melitta engeli Michez, 2012 (a melittine bee from Kyrgyzstan)
  10. Xenosycorax engeli Azar & Salamé, 2015 (a psychodid fly in Cretaceous amber from New Jersey)
  11. Kronocharon engeli Wunderlich, 2015 (a whipspider in Cretaceous amber from Myanmar)

Representative Publications[edit]

  • Engel, M.S. (2001) A monograph of the Baltic amber bees and evolution of the Apoidea (Hymenoptera). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 259: 1-192.
  • Engel, M.S. & Grimaldi, D.A. (2002) The first Mesozoic Zoraptera (Insecta). American Museum Novitates 3362: 1-20.
  • Engel, M.S. & Grimaldi, D.A. (2004) New light shed on the oldest insect. Nature 427: 627-630.
  • Engel, M.S., Davis, S.R. & Prokop, J. (2013) Insect wings: The evolutionary developmental origins of Nature’s first flyers. In: Minelli, A., Boxshall, G. & Fusco, G. (eds.), Arthropod Biology and Evolution: Molecules, Development, Morphology: 269–298. Springer Verlag, Berlin.
  • Garrouste, R., Clément, G., Nel, P., Engel, M.S., Grandcolas, P., D’Haese, C., Lagebro, L., Denayer, J., Gueriau, P., Lafaite, P., Olive, S., Prestianni, C. & Nel, A. (2012) A complete insect from the Late Devonian period. Nature 488: 82–85.
  • Grimaldi, D. & Engel, M.S. (2005). Evolution of the Insects. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-82149-5. 
  • Gu, J., Montealegre-Z, F., Robert, D., Engel, M.S., Qiao, G. & Ren, D. (2012) Wing stridulation in a Jurassic katydid (Insecta, Orthoptera) produced low-pitched musical calls to attract females. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 109: 3868–3873.
  • Huang, D., Engel, M.S., Cai, C., Wu, H. & Nel, A. (2012) Diverse transitional giant fleas from the Mesozoic era of China. Nature 483: 201–204.
  • Huang, D., Nel, A., Cai, C., Lin, Q. & Engel, M.S. (2013) Amphibious flies and paedomorphism in the Jurassic period. Nature 495: 94–97.
  • Krishna, K., Grimaldi, D.A., Krishna, V. & Engel, M.S. (2013) Treatise on the Termites of the World. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 377: 1-2470.
  • Michez, D., Vanderplanck, M. & Engel, M.S. (2012) Fossil bees and their plant associates. In: Patiny, S. (ed.), Evolution of Plant-Pollinator Relationships: 103-164. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Nel, A., Roques, P., Nel, P., Prokin, A.A., Bourgoin, T., Prokop, J., Szwedo, J., Azar, D., Desutter-Grandcolas, L., Wappler, T., Garrouste, R., Coty, D., Huang, D., Engel, M.S. & Kirejtshuk, A.G. (2013) The earliest known holometabolous insects. Nature 503: 257–261.
  • Pérez-de la Fuente, R., Delclòs, X., Peñalver, E., Speranza, M., Wierzchos, J., Ascaso, C. & Engel, M.S. (2012) Early evolution and ecology of camouflage in insects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 109: 21414–21419.


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