Professor Mark Purnell

CENTA Deputy Director, Professor of Palaeobiology
University of Leicester


My research interests range across taphonomy, functional morphology, palaeobiology, palaeoecology and taxonomy, including: experimental analysis of soft-tissue character decay and preservation; developing tooth microwear analysis of feeding in fishes and dinosaurs; aspects of the taphonomy and fauna of the Silurian Eramosa Lagerstatte; and ongoing conodont projects.  These projects involve collaborations with colleagues in the UK, USA, China and Canada.  I supervise postgraduate research on taphonomy, palaeobiology, and tooth microwear (mainly aquatic vertebrates).

Research Interests

More details of some of my current and recent work:

Key Papers

Recent Publications

  • Cong, P.-Y., Hou, X.-G., Aldridge, R. J., Purnell, M. A. & Li, Y.-Z. 2015: New data on the palaeobiology of the enigmatic yunnanozoans from the Chengjiang Biota, Lower Cambrian, China. Palaeontology 58, 45-70.
  • Gill, P. G., Purnell, M. A., Crumpton, N., Robson Brown, K., Gostling, N. J., Stamponi, M. & Rayfield, E. J. 2014: Dietary specializations and diversity in feeding ecology of the earliest stem mammals. Nature 512, 303-305.
  • Murdock, D., Gabbott, S. E., Mayer, G. & Purnell, M. A. 2014: Decay of velvet worms (Onychophora), and bias in the fossil record of lobopodians. BMC Evolutionary Biology 14, 222.
  • Purnell, M. A., Crumpton, N., Gill, P. G., Jones, G. & Rayfield, E. J. 2013: Within-guild dietary discrimination from 3-D textural analysis of tooth microwear in insectivorous mammals. Journal of Zoology 291, 249-257.
  • Purnell, M. A., Seehausen, O. & Galis, F. 2012: Quantitative 3D microtextural analysis of tooth wear as a tool for dietary discrimination in fishes. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. download pdf
  • Sansom, R. S., Gabbott, S. E. & PURNELL, M. A. 2010: Non-random decay of chordate characters causes bias in fossil interpretation. Nature 463, 797-800.
  • Full publications listing and pdf downloads on personal homepages