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Dr Daniel J. Field

Dr Daniel J. Field

University Lecturer, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Research Associate, Department of Earth Sciences, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Daniel Field is accepting applications for PhD students.

Daniel Field is available for consultancy.

Department of Earth Sciences
Downing Street



I am fascinated by Earth’s modern biodiversity, and my research aims to use the vertebrate fossil record to help answer questions about how, where, and when this biodiversity arose. I’m passionate about natural history, evolution, and science outreach, and enjoy studying and photographing Earth’s vertebrate biodiversity in the field. 

Research Interests

Work in my lab aims primarily to decipher the origins of modern avian biodiversity, using fossil, anatomical, and molecular data, although we have deep interests in evolutionary questions across the vertebrate tree of life. At present, we are primarily interested in the following topics:

• Inferring the evolutionary origins of modern avian features such as feathers, flight, and endothermy
• Establishing an accurate timescale for the extant avian radiation
• Inferring phylogenetic interrelationships within birds using novel molecular, morphological, and fossil data
• Improving biogeographic inferences for birds using fossils, and studying the link between climatic change and biogeographic range
• Investigating macroevolutionary patterns across the Cretaceous-Palaeogene mass extinction
• Similar topics in other vertebrate clades

Research Supervision

PhD students

2017-:    Mr. Albert Chen MSc

2017-:    Mr. Juan Benito Moreno MSc


Systematics and Phylogenetics ; Palaeobiology ; Vertebrates ; Comparative morphology ; Anatomy ; Functional Morphology ; Tomography


  • Vertebrate Palaeobiology (general)

Key Publications

Field, D.J.*, Hanson, M.*, Burnham, D., Wilson-Brantley, L., Super, K., Ehret, D., Ebersole, E., Bhullar, B.A-S. 2018. Complete Ichthyornis skull illuminates mosaic assembly of the avian head. Nature 557 (96-100). doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0053-y. *co-first authors; includes associated News and Views article.

Field, D.J., Bercovici, A., Berv, J.S., Dunn, R., Fastovsky, D., Lyson, T.R., Vajda, V., Gauthier, J.A. 2018. Early evolution of modern birds structured by global forest collapse at the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Current Biology 28(11): 1825-1831.e2. [Cover]

Field, D.J., Hsiang, A.Y. 2018. A North American stem turaco, and the complex biogeographic history of modern birds. BMC Evolutionary Biology 18:102.

Berv, J.S.* & Field, D.J.* 2018. Genomic signature of an avian Lilliput Effect across the K-Pg Extinction. Systematic Biology 67(1): 1-13. *co-first authors. [Cover; Winner of the Society of Systematic Biologists Publisher’s Award]

Field, D.J. 2018. Endless skulls most beautiful. (Commentary). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115(3): 448-450. doi:10.1073/pnas.1721208115.

Faux, C.* & Field, D.J.* 2017. Distinct developmental pathways underlie independent losses of flight in ratites. Biology Letters 13(7): 20170234. *co-first authors. [Cover]

Field, D.J. 2017. Big-time insights from a tiny bird fossil (Commentary). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114(30): 7750-7752. doi:10/1073/pnas.1710941114.

Field, D.J. 2017. Preliminary paleoecological insights from the Pliocene avifauna of Kanapoi, Kenya: implications for the ecology of Australopithecus anamensis. Journal of Human Evolution.

Prum, R.O., Berv, J.S., Dornburg, A., Field, D.J., Townsend, J.P, Lemmon, E.M., Lemmon, A.R. 2015. A comprehensive phylogeny of birds (Aves) using targeted next generation DNA sequencing. Nature 526: 569-573. doi:10.1038/nature15697. Includes associated News and Views article.

Bever, G.S., Lyson, T.R., Field, D.J., Bhullar B.-A.S. 2015. Evolutionary origin of the turtle skull. Nature 525: 239-242. doi:10.1038/nature14900.