Elsa Panciroli is a Scottish palaeobiologist completing her PhD jointly at the National Museum of Scotland and University of Edinburgh. Her research is on the origins of mammals during the Mesozoic, with special focus on mammal fossils from the Jurassic of the Isle of Skye, Scotland. She is especially interested in understanding the role that these first mammals played in their complex ecosystems. Elsa returned to study after working for several years as a science communicator for a marine life charity, completing her first degree in Environmental Science, then a masters in Palaeobiology. Alongside her research, Elsa writes about evolutionary biology and palaeontology for The Guardian newspaper.
Elsa Panciroli, Grant Institute, The King’s Buildings, James Hutton Road, Edinburgh EH9 3FE.
by Elsa Panciroli1
The study of the earliest mammals is an exciting part of palaeontology, telling us not only about strange animals that once lived on Earth, but also about how our own ancestors evolved alongside the dinosaurs. Early mammal fossils are very rare and often we only find a few teeth and bones, but we can tell a lot about the animals’ ecology and evolution from these remains. Discoveries of more-complete skeletons, particularly in China, are now revealing that early mammals were more successful and diverse than anyone had suspected. They specialized to exploit new habitats, diets and ways of living that would lead to their ultimate success.
I want to give you an overview of the earliest mammals: mammals from the time of the dinosaurs. We will look at what d