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Department of Earth Sciences



2003-2007: MESc undergraduate degree in Earth Sciences, St. Peter's College, University of Oxford

2007-2011: DPhil in Ediacaran Palaeobiology, Exeter College, University of Oxford

2011-2014: Henslow Junior Research Fellow, Girton College, University of Cambridge

2014-2016: NERC Independent Research Fellow, University of Bristol

2016-2021: University Lecturer in Palaeobiology, University of Cambridge

2021-       : Associate Professor, University of Cambridge



My research investigates the history of life during the interval of geological time encompassing the origin and radiation of animals, between ~750-485 million years ago. Much of my previous work has explored fossils of the Ediacaran Period (635-539 million years ago), particularly the enigmatic Ediacaran macrobiota - a group of soft-bodied organisms with unusual body plans that includes the earliest members of extant animal groups. In addition to examining aspects of Ediacaran palaeoecology and taxonomy, I attempt to better understand the biology of Ediacaran organisms by interpreting them within a palaeoenvironmental and geological context. This involves studies into fossil preservation, ichnology, sedimentology and geochemistry, in a variety of field areas including Newfoundland (Canada), Brazil, Namibia, Australia and China. I ultimately hope to determine the causes and consequences of animal evolution, and the interplay between animal evolution and the Earth System.



Key publications: 

Recent publications can be found in the publications database here.


Psarras, C., Donoghue, P.C.J., Garwood, R.J., Grazhdankin, D.V., Parry, L.A., Rogov, V.I. and Liu, A.G. (2023)
Three-dimensional reconstruction, taphonomic and petrological data suggest that the oldest record of bioturbation is a body fossil coquina.
Papers in Palaeontology, 9 (6), e1531. doi: 10.1002/spp2.1531

Hu, S., Zhao, F., Liu, A.G. and Zhu, M. (2023)
A new Cambrian frondose organism: "Ediacaran survivor" or convergent evolution?
Journal of the Geological Society, 180. doi: 10.1144/jgs2022-088

Boddy, C.E., Mitchell, E.G., Merdith, A. and Liu, A.G. (2022)
Palaeolatitudinal distribution of the Ediacaran macrobiota.
Journal of the Geological Society, 179 (1),  jgs2021-030, doi: 10/1144/jgs2021-030

Dunn, F.S., Liu, A.G., Grazhdankin, D.V., Vixseboxse, P., Flannery-Sutherland, J., Green, E., Harris, S., Wilby, P.R. and Donoghue, P.C.J. (2021)
The developmental biology of Charnia and the eumetazoan affinity of the Ediacaran rangeomorphs.
Science Advances, 7, eabe0291. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abe0291

McMahon, W.J., Liu, A.G., Tindal, B.H. and Kleinhans, M.G. (2020)
Ediacaran life close to land: Coastal and shoreface habitats of the Ediacaran macrobiota, the Central Flinders Ranges, South Australia.
Journal of Sedimentary Research, 90, 1463–1499. doi: 10.2110/jsr.2020.029

Liu, A.G., and Dunn, F.S. (2020)
Filamentous connections between Ediacaran fronds.
Current Biology, 30, 1322–1328, doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.01.052

Davies, N.S., Shillito, A.P., Slater, B., Liu, A.G., and McMahon, W.J. (2020)
Evolutionary synchrony of Earth’s biosphere and sedimentary-stratigraphic record.
Earth-Science Reviews, 201, 102979 doi: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2019.102979

Wood, R., Liu, A.G., Bowyer, F., Wilby, P.R., Dunn, F.S., Kenchington, C.G., Hoyal Cuthill, J.F., Mitchell, E.G. & Penny, A. (2019)
Integrated records of environmental change and evolution challenge the Cambrian Explosion
Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3, 528-538. doi: 10.1038/s41559-019-0821-6

Liu, A.G., McMahon, S., Matthews, J.J., Still, J. and Brasier, A.T. (2019)
Petrological evidence supports the death mask model for the preservation of Ediacaran soft-bodied organisms in South Australia
Geology, 47(3), 215-218.

Parry, L.A., Boggiani, P.C., Condon, D.J., Garwood, R.J., Leme, J. de M., McIlroy, D., Brasier, M.D., Trindade, R., Campanha, G.A.C., Pacheco, M.L.A.F., Diniz, C.Q.C. and Liu, A.G. (2017)
Ichnological evidence for meiofaunal bilaterians from the terminal Ediacaran and earliest Cambrian of Brazil
Nature Ecology & Evolution, 1, 1455–1464. doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0301-9


Twitter profile: @the_palaeoninja

Teaching and Supervisions


Part 1B ESA Carbonate and chemical sediments.

Part II, Ancient Life and Environments

Part III, Records of Major Environmental Change

Dorset field trip co-ordinator.

Supervisions in sedimentology, palaeobiology and climate.


Research supervision: 

PhD students

Katie Delahooke (2020 - Present): Palaeoecology of frondose fossil assemblages from the Ediacaran of Newfoundland.

Philip Vixseboxse (2021 - Present): Experimental approaches to the preservation of Ediacaran macrofossils.

Catherine Boddy (2021 - Present): Sedimentology and depositional environments of late Ediacaran shallow marine successions.


Masters students

Elkan Utoni (2023 - 2024, University of Namibia): Palaeoecology of Ediacaran matground assemblages.

Iris Powell (2023 - 2024): The palaeogeographic distribution of the Cambrian explosion.

Buck Blake (2023 - 2024): Taxonomy of Ediacaran tubular fossils from Namibia.


Previous students:

Dr Ben Tindal (2018 - 2022, University of Cambridge): Geological constraints on glaciation through Earth history. Now works for Natural England.

Dr Frankie Dunn (2015 - 2019, University of Bristol): Growth and morphogenesis in the Ediacaran macrobiota. Now a Senior Researcher at the University of Oxford Museum of Natural History.


Erin Leahy (2019 - 2020): Super-traits in Ediacaran palaeocommunities (co-supervised with Dr Emily Mitchell)

Anna McGairy (2019 - 2020): A new Ediacaran frond from the Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland (co-supervised with Dr Charlotte Kenchington)

Catherine Boddy (2019 - 2020): The palaeogeographic distribution of the Ediacaran macrobiota

Alavya Dhungana (2018-2019): Taphonomy and palaeoecology of discoidal Ediacaran fossils from Ferryland, Newfoundland


I am happy to discuss Masters or PhD projects with potential future applicants, please get in touch by email.


Associate Professor
Christine McKie Official Fellow in Natural Sciences, Girton College
Dr Alex  Liu

Contact Details

Email address: 
Department of Earth Sciences
Downing Street
+44 (0) 1223 768326
Takes PhD students


Person keywords: 
Systematics and Phylogenetics