Lab members & collaborators

Lab members & collaborators

Dr. 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 feathered theropods), fossil imaging (particularly LSF) and the evolutionary biomechanics of vertebrates (especially theropod flight). Much of my work focuses on the study of Chinese dinosaurs with Prof. Xiaoli Wang (Linyi University, Linyi), Prof. Xu Xing (IVPP, Beijing) and Prof. Xiaoting Zheng (Tianyu Museum, Pingyi). This includes past fieldwork in the Chinese Gobi desert that led to the discovery of the dromaeosaurid Linheraptor and the alvarezsaurid Linhenykus as well as important feathered dinosaur discoveries such as the asymmetrically feathered troodontid Jianianhualong and the first quantitative body outline to be reconstructed, based on Anchiornis.

I lead the Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory which includes 4 PhD students, a number of undergraduates and volunteers as well as an international group of research associates. I produced and instruct HKU’s award-winning prize-nominated free online course Dinosaur Ecosystems. I am the Assistant Dean (e-learning) of the Faculty of Science as well as the Outreach Committee Chairman and Advisory Board Secretary for the Department of Earth Sciences.

Email:                                                                    Telephone: (+852) 5625 5019 (Mobile); (+852) 3917 7840 (Office)
Location: Hui Oi Chow 304, HKU
Web: ResearchGate/Google Scholar/ORCiD/Twitter – @Palaeopittman/Dinosaur Ecosystems MOOC

Arindam Roy – PhD student                                                                            Amniote palaeocolour reconstruction
Co-supervisors: Prof. Xing Xu; Mr. Thomas G Kaye

Arindam received my first integrated Master’s degree in Biotechnology at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata [Calcutta], India (2014). He earned his second Master’s degree in Palaeobiology from the University of Bristol, United Kingdom (2016).

Arindam 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. Arindam’s 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. His 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. Arindam’s 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) 66549715
Location: Hui Oi Chow 302, HKU
Web: ResearchGate / ORCiD / Twitter – @Indosuchus
Teaching: TA for HKU MOOC Dinosaur Ecosystems and the undergraduate course EASC3402 Petrology.

Fion Waisum Ma – co-supervised U of Birmingham PhD student        Functional morphology of oviraptorosaur jaws using 3D modelling techniques                                                                                                              Primary supervisor: Dr. Stephan Lautenschlager; Co-supervisor: Prof. Richard Butler

Fion received her undergraduate degree at the University of Hong Kong in 2013, double-majoring in Geology and Ecology and Biodiversity. At HKU, she was part of the VPL and completed two summer research fellowships with myself and Prof. Xing Xu (IVPP). One of the projects involved the first in-depth description of the Gigantoraptor mandible, which provided new insights into the evolution of oviraptorosaur jaws. With growing interest in these amazing animals, Fion completed a Palaeontology and Geobiology MRes at the University of Edinburgh in 2018. She studied the variation patterns of oviraptorosaur skull form and function under the supervision of Dr Stephen Brusatte and the late Prof. Junchang Lü (formerly of the Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences). In particular, Fion investigated whether feeding-related niche partitioning likely existed among the Ganzhou oviraptorid fauna in the Nanxiong Formation of southern China, which is one of the most diverse oviraptorid faunas in the world.

Telephone: (+44) 07907995477
Location: School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
Web: ORCiDTwitter – @FionMaWS /
Teaching: TA for HKU MOOC Dinosaur Ecosystems.                             Publications:                                                                                                           Ma, W., Wang, J.Y., Pittman, M., Tan, Q. W., Tan, L., Guo, B. & Xu, X. 2017. Functional anatomy of a giant toothless mandible from a bird-like dinosaur: Gigantoraptor and the evolution of the oviraptorosaurian jaw. Scientific Reports, 7(1): 16247.

Mr. Luke Meade – co-supervised U of Birmingham PhD student Functional morphology of oviraptorosaur jaws using 3D modelling techniques                                                                                                          Primary supervisor: Dr. Stephan Lautenschlager; Co-supervisor: Prof. Richard Butler

Luke is returning to the University of Birmingham for a PhD following a MSci degree in Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments. Throughout his four years of undergraduate study Luke was able to undertake a wide range of palaeontological research. He led a study and re-description of a collection of scientifically important early tetrapod footprints from the Carboniferous of the Midlands (UK), using photogrammetry to create 3D models of footprints for analysis. The project generated new insights into how increasing aridity drove the rise of reptiles and was published in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ (Meade et al. 2016). Luke has also had the opportunity to explore palaeobotany in a project that assessed the anatomy of early Carboniferous seeds using 3D models based on tomographic data from historic serial peel slides. Luke’s fourth-year master’s project focused on reconstructing late Permian dicynodont skulls, preserved within ironstone nodules, from CT scans in order make detailed anatomical descriptions of the material and generate endocasts of the braincase.

Location: School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
Web: Twitter – @LukeEMeade
Teaching: TA for HKU MOOC Dinosaur Ecosystems and University of Birmingham undergraduate course Earth History and Life.
Publications: Meade, L.E., Jones, A.S., Butler, R.J. 2016. A revision of tetrapod footprints from the late Carboniferous of the West Midlands, UK. PeerJ, 4: e2718

Case V. Miller – PhD student                                                                                      Enantiornithine bird diet                                                                                     Co-supervisors: Dr. Jen Bright; Mr. Thomas G Kaye; Prof. Xiaoli Wang

Case received an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida with a double major in Zoology and Geology in 2018. Before beginning his postgraduate studies, he completed a year of work study in the Vertebrate Palaeontology section of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. After four years of experience with the preparation and description of fossils (three years under Jonathan Bloch and one year under Matthew Lamanna), Case wanted to dig deeper at HKU.

While we may never be able to turn long-dead bones into a living animal, modern technology does allow us to do the next best thing and turn them into machines. Modeling limbs as lever systems reveals how quickly an animal could move, finite element analysis can recreate the complex strength relationships in skulls to see what they could have eaten, and reconstructing the neck and trunk muscles of an animal may even give insight to exactly how they fed. All of these techniques have been well-established in the realm of non-avialan dinosaur palaeontology, but are nearly absent in the study of fossil avialans. My PhD goal is to apply these techniques to one of the most fascinating fossil clades and expand them even further with the unique detail and soft tissue preservation found in Chinese Mesozoic fossil avialans.
Location: Hui Oi Chow 302, HKU
Teaching: TA for HKU Dinosaur Ecosystems MOOC and the Master’s level course GEOS7021 Geological Fieldwork
Publications:                                                                                                            Seymour, R.S., Bosiocic, V., Snelling, E.P., Chikezie, P.C., Hu, Q.H., Nelson, T.J.,  Zipfel, B., Miller, C.V. 2019. Cerebral blood flow rates in recent great apes are greater than in Australopithecus species that had equal or larger brains. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 286: 20192208.

Ms. Ariel Ng – Faculty of Science Overseas Research Fellowship

Project on dinosaurian material from the Late Jurassic of Lesotho.

Current volunteers

Mr. Dino Dobrowski, Mr. Edison Tse, Mr. Anyang Ding

Past students

Mr. Edison Tse (MSc and UG), Ms. Waisum Ma Fion (UG), Mr. Jefferson Hsieh (UG), Mr. Anyang Ding (UG), Mr. Raymond Fong (PhD), Ms. Crystal Wong (UG), Mr. Chan Fai Lo.


As part of our integrative research approach we collaborate with a range of international experts from different fields. Here is a selection of project collaborators both past and present:

Current Projects

Prof. Xing Xu (Deputy Director of IVPP, Beijing, China; HKU Division of Earth & Planetary Science Honorary Professor) – avian and flight origins; fieldwork in China; HKU MOOC Dinosaur Ecosystems; secondary supervisor of PhD student Arindam Roy; HKU Honorary Professor.

Mr. Thomas G. Kaye (Foundation for Scientific Advancement, Arizona, USA; HKU Laboratory of Space Science) – Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF) imaging; actuopalaeontological experiments; secondary supervisor of PhD students Arindam Roy and Case Miller.

Prof. Xiaoli Wang (Linyi University, Linyi, China)  – avian and flight origins: collaboration with Prof. Xiaoteng Zheng at the Tianyu Musuem in Shandong, China.

Prof. Xiaoteng Zheng (Director of Shandong Tianyu Museum, Pingyi, China) – avian and flight origins: collaboration with Prof. Xiaoli Wang.

Dr. T. Alexander Dececchi (Mount Marty College, Yanktown, USA) – avian and flight origins

Dr. Diego Pol (Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio, Trelew, Argentina) –  field in Patagonia, Argentina; instructor of HKU MOOC Dinosaur Ecosystems; abelisaurid theropods

Dr. Michael Habib (USC, Los Angeles, USA) – avian and flight origins; pterosaur flight

Dr. Hans C.E. Larsson (McGill University, Montreal, Canada) – avian and flight origins

Dr. Evan Saitta (Field Museum, Chicago, USA) – amniote palaeocolour; actuopalaeontology

Dr. Gerald Mayr (Senckenberg Institute Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany) – non-avian avialan evolution


Dr. Stephan Lautenschlager & Prof. Richard Butler (U of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK) – oviraptorosaur skull biomechanics

Dr. Jen Bright (U of Hull, Hull, UK) – enantiornithine bird diet

Dr. Julius T. Csotonyi (palaeoartist, Vancouver, Canada) – life reconstructions

Dr. Scott Hartman (palaeoartist, Madison, USA) – quantitative skeletal and body outline reconstructions

Past Projects
Phylogenetic analysis and methods Pablo A. Goloboff (Fundación Miguel Lillo, Tucuman, Argentina)

Early avialan flight- Francisco Serrano (Real Academia de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales, Madrid, Spain; Dinosaur Institute, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, USA), Luis M. Chiappe (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, USA)

Pennaraptoran systematics and fossil record flight – Jingmai O’Connor (IVPP, Beijing, China), Pete Makovicky (University of Minnesota, Minnesota, USA, Daniel J Field (U of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK), Alan H. Turner (Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, USA)                                                             

Dinosaur dental histology – Mr. Raymond Fong (Independent), Dr. Aaron LeBlanc (U of Alberta, Edmonton Canada), Prof. Robert Reisz (U Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, Canada) Dinosaur palaeocolour – Dr. Jakob Vinther (U of Bristol, Bristol, UK), Dr. Fiann Smithwick (Independent)

Enantiornithine bird life strategies – Dr. Jesús Marugán-Lobón & Angela Buscalioni (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain)                                                                                                                              

Dromaeosaurid theropods Dr. Rui Pei (IVPP, Beijing, China), Prof. Mark A. Norell (AMNH, New York,  USA)

Fieldwork in Alashan, Inner Mongolia, China; oviraptorosaur reproductionProf. Shundong Bi (Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, USA)                                                                                                                                 

Late Cretaceous Inner Mongolian dinosaursDr. Jonah Choiniere (U of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa), Dr. Corwin Sullivan (U of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada), Mr. Qingwei Tan () & Mr. Lin Tan (

Dinosaur tail evolution and biomechanicsProf. Paul Upchurch (UCL, London, UK), Prof. John R Hutchinson (RVC, Hatfield, UK)