Michael Benton

Michael Benton

Michael Benton in 2014, portrait via the Royal Society
Born Michael James Benton
(1956-04-08) April 8, 1956[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
  • Graeme Lloyd
  • David Pisani
  • Manabu Sakamoto
  • Sarda Sahney
Notable awards

Michael James Benton FRS[4] (born 8 April 1956) is a British palaeontologist, and professor of vertebrate palaeontology in the School 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 and deals 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]


Awards and honours

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. 1 2 3 Michael Benton's publications indexed by Google Scholar
  3. http://www.royalsoced.org.uk/fellowship/fellows.pdf
  4. 1 2 3 "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 2603200Freely accessible. 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 2936204Freely accessible. 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 2596898Freely accessible. 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
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