Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Peter Makovicky


Tate Hall, 385-10



PhD, 2002, Columbia University


I am a paleontologist whose research aims to understand the patterns and processes of macroevolution using the fossil record, with an emphasis on Mesozoic vertebrates. I address these questions with a combination of fieldwork, anatomical studies using character analysis and morphometrics, phylogenetic inference, biogeography, and comparative methods analyses of trait evolution. I principally use dinosaurs as a research model because of the group’s longevity surpassing 150 million years, global distribution, high diversity, and the possession of unique anatomical structures. My fieldwork spans the globe with longstanding, active programs in Argentina, China, Antarctica, as well as the United States.

Current research foci include the following themes:

How does morphological variation relate to taxonomic diversity and evolution? I am currently working on projects to understand the diversity and relationships of theropods, including the feathered dinosaurs that give rise to birds; and understanding how anatomical changes during growth affect our understanding of dinosaur evolution and diversity patterns over space and time.

How do novel traits arise, and how do they relate to patterns of diversification and niche expansion? Specific projects include the repeated evolution of  herbivory in dinosaurs; and evolution of ‘bizarre’ structures such as the frill in horned dinosaurs.

How did geological events influence the evolution and biogeography of fossil vertebrates? Specific projects include biotic response to mid-Cretaceous sea-level, orogenic, and climate changes in the Western Interior Basin; and evaluating the response of Antarctic vertebrates to the end-Permian extinction event.

Besides the above themes, I have broad interests in all paleontological disciplines and have conducted research in biochronology/ biostratigraphy, trace fossils, biomechanics and modeling body size, growth, and scaling in fossil vertebrates (see Select Publications). I will officially join the Department of Earth Sciences in the Fall, 2019, and am looking to recruit graduate students broadly interested in vertebrate paleontology and evolution.



  • Makovicky, P. J., S. Apesteguía, S. and F. L. Agnolin. 2005. The earliest dromaeosaurid theropod from South America. Nature 437, 1007-1011.
  • Turner, A. H., P. J. Makovicky, and M. A. Norell. 2007. Feather quill knobs in the dinosaur Velociraptor. Science 317: 1721.
  • Makovicky P. J. 2008. Telling time from fossils: a phylogeny-based approach to chronological ordering of paleobiotas. Cladistics, 24(3): 350-371.
  • Brusatte, S. M., M. A. Norell, T. D. Carr, G. M. Erickson, J. R. Hutchinson, A. M. Balanoff, G. S. Bever, J. N. Choiniere, P. J. Makovicky, and Xu X. 2010. Tyrannosaur paleobiology: New research on ancient exemplar organisms. Science 329: 1481-1485.
  • Makovicky, P. J, D.-Q. Li, K.-Q. Gao, M. Lewin, G. M. Erickson, and M. A. Norell. 2010. A giant ornithomimosaur from the Early Cretaceous of China. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277(1679): 191-198.
  • Kilbourne, B. M. and P. J. Makovicky. 2010. Limb bone allometry during postnatal ontogeny in non-avian dinosaurs. Journal of Anatomy 217(2): 135-152. (DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2010.01253.x).
  • Zanno, L. E. and P. J. Makovicky. 2011. Herbivorous ecomorphology and specialization patterns in theropod dinosaur evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108(1): 232-237 (DOI:10.1073/pnas.1011924108).
  • Hutchinson, J. R., K. T. Bates, J. Molnar, V. Allen, and P. J. Makovicky. 2011. A Computational Analysis of Limb and Body Dimensions in Tyrannosaurus rex with Implications for Locomotion, Ontogeny, and Growth. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26037. (DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0026037)
  • Mitchell, J. S. and P. J. Makovicky. 2014. Low ecological disparity in Early Cretaceous birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281: 20140608 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0608
  • Apesteguía S., Smith N. D., Juárez Valieri R., Makovicky P. J. 2016.  An unusual new theropod with a didactyl manus from the Upper Cretaceous of Patagonia, Argentina. PLoS ONE 11(7): e0157793. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0157793.


Recent Research Support

2009-2010 National Science Foundation ANT 0838925- “Collaborative research: New research on the Mesozoic vertebrate faunas of the Beardmore Glacier region, Antarctica.” (PI).

2008-2011 National Science Foundation DBI 0849958- “REU Site: Networked Access to Systematic Resources for Undergraduates in Chicagoland” $249,000. (co-PI)

2012-2015 National Science Foundation ANT 1246379- “Collaborative research: Continued Research on the Jurassic Vertebrate Fauna from the Beardmore Glacier Region of Antarctica” (PI)

2014-2016 National Science Foundation EAR 1450143- “Workshop: Sino-US Collaborative Research on the Rise of Modern Biological Diversity In the Phanerozoic” (PI).

2016-2019 National Science Foundation PLR 1341645 “COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: Understanding The Evolution of High-Latitude Permo-Triassic Paleoenvironments and Their Vertebrate Communities (PI)