Michael Pittman – Principal Investigator
I’m a multi-disciplinary vertebrate palaeontologist from HK. I earned a BSc in geology from UCL in 2006 before progressing to an MSc in geoscience (palaeobiology) in 2007. I pursued a PhD on ‘the evolution and biomechanics of dinosaurian tails’ with Profs. Paul Upchurch and John R Hutchinson (RVC) completing in 2012.
My primary research interests are the evolution of dinosaurs (particularly of theropods and avian origins), laser-based fossil imaging and the evolutionary biomechanics of vertebrates (especially of dinosaurs). Much of my work focuses on the study of Chinese dinosaurs with Prof. Xu Xing (IVPP, Beijing), including fossils we discovered in the Gobi desert as part of the Inner Mongolia Research Project (e.g. Linheraptor and Linhenykus) as well as other fossils such as Jianianhualong and Anchiornis.
I lead the Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory which includes postdoctoral researcher Dr. Pei Rui, two incoming PhD students, a number of undergraduate and Master’s students as well as an international group of research associates. I produced and instruct HKU’s free online course Dinosaur Ecosystems.
Arindam Roy – PhD student (HK PhD Fellow)
I received my first integrated Master’s degree in Biotechnology at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata [Calcutta], India (2014). I earned my second Master’s degree in Palaeobiology from the University of Bristol, United Kingdom (2016).
I began working on the fossilisation of the pigment melanin at Bristol with Dr. Jakob Vinther. Melanin – the biological pigment that imparts colour to many organisms and is present in our own hair and eyes – has the exceptional ability to preserve over geological time scales and has become the centre of an exciting and cutting-edge field of palaeontological research. Melanosomes, the small sub-cellular vesicles that store the pigment melanin, have become key to the reconstruction of ancient colouration in exceptionally preserved fossil feathers in various non-avialan dinosaurs and early birds. My Master’s dissertation at the University of Bristol titled ‘To be palaeo-melanosomes, or not to be?’ dealt with the validation of the ‘melanosome identity’ of fossil microbodies. The interpretation of microbodies in fossils as melanosomes has been criticised based on the morphological resemblance of these structures to rod-shaped and spherical bacteria, which they were originally interpreted as. My research presented strong evidence that supports the ’melanosome hypothesis’.
While the morphological diversity of modern and fossil avian feather melanosomes has been examined in detail, the evolution and diversity of melanosomes in the skin covering (integument) more generally and in primitive feather-like structures of non-avialan dinosaurs and related taxa remains acutely understudied. My current research as a Hong Kong PhD Fellow 2017/2018 focuses on the preservation and evolutionary history of melanin-based colouration in dinosaurs and their close-relatives.
Telephone: (+852) 3917 7844 (Office), (+852) 66549715 (Mobile)
Location: Hui Oi Chow 301
Web: ResearchGate/Google Scholar/ORCiD/Twitter
Teaching: I am a teaching assistant for the undergraduate course EASC2406 Geochemistry.
Raymond Fong – PhD student (Postgraduate Scholar)
I completed a Master’s degree at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada in 2017.
My research in Canada was focused on dental histology under the supervision of Dr. Robert Reisz. This is a relatively new area of palaeontological research that examines the microanatomy of teeth by creating thin sections from fossils for examination and interpretation. The data collected can help inform us on the function and evolution of dentition in extinct groups. I have examined closely the dental histology of the early theropod dinosaur Coelophysis and the reptile like mammal Lystrosaurus. In Coelophysis I was able to establish the ancestral dental condition in dinosaurs, including the types of tissues present, how their teeth replaced and how they are implanted inside the jaws. In Lystrosaurus I determined that based on their dental histology they possessed permanent tusks rather than replacing their teeth periodically.
Many groups of dinosaurs remain under sampled for dental histology and my current research is focused on the dental histology of paravians. My goal is to track how dinosaur dentition has changed through time from the ancestral condition and what is the significance of these evolutionary changes.
Telephone: (+852) 3917 7844 (Office), (+852) 5432 0645 (Mobile)
Location: Hui Oi Chow 301
Teaching: I am the teaching assistant for the Master of Science in Applied Geosciences courses GEOS 7010 (Geology Principles) and GEOS 8207 (Global Climate).
Publications: Fong, R.K.M.; LeBlanc, A.R.; Berman, D.S.; Reisz, R.R. (2016). Dental histology of Coelophysis bauri and the evolution of tooth attachment tissues in early dinosaurs. Journal of Morphology. 277: 914-924.
Current students and volunteers
Mr. Anyang Ding (UG), Ms. Crystal Wong (UG), Mr. Dino Dobrowski (volunteer), Mr. Chun Fai Lo (volunteer)
Mr. Edison Tse (MSc and UG), Ms. Waisum Ma Fion (UG), Mr. Jefferson Hsieh (UG)