- Plus anciens mammifères thériens et euthériens européens : étude des gisements du Bassin de Paris (ex., Le Quesnoy), des Pyrénées françaises, du Pays Basque espagnol, et du bassin de Transylvanie
- Plus anciens placentaires africains: bassins à phosphates (Crétacé supérieur-Paléogène) du Maroc
- Plus anciens thériens et faunes à microvertébrés mésozoïques d’Afrique : gisements de la transition Jurassique-Crétacé d’Anoual, Maroc oriental
- Field research (fossil vertebrate and mammal localities);
- Research, preparation and study of fossil micromammals;
- Dental and cranial anatomy of mammals, including morpho-functional approach of diets;
- Mammal systematics and phylogeny (incl. cladistic analysis);
- Paleobiogeography, paleogeography;
- Cretaceous and Paleogene mammals from Africa and Eurasia;
- Paleogene placentals;
- KT and PE transitions.
I work on several African and European vertebrate localities, yielding mostly micromammals :
- Cretaceous and Paleogene of Arabo-Africa; currently several sites in Morocco and Oman;
- Late Cretaceous of Europe; currently several sites in Spain en France;
- Late Paleocene and early Eocene of Europe; currently several sites in Romania, Spain and France.
- I participated to and conducted 40 missions of field research (80 weeks of field work) in these areas.
Referee for various specialized Biological Evolution and Earth Science journals (PNAS, JVP, Paleo X3, Palevol, etc...) and research programs (CNRS, FRNT Quebec, National Geographic Society, NSF, BRAIN-BE), scientific awards and prizes (Russian Academy of Sciences,TWAS, Society of Vertebrates Paleontology, MacArthur Fellowship, SGF, APF) and Academic promotions.
Associate Editor C.R.Palevol.
Collaborations & Programs
Belgium J. Yans (Facult. Mons).
France K. Benzerara (Univ. Paris 6), J. Cosmidis (Univ. Paris 6), M. Godinot (EPHE, UMR 7207), J.-L. Hartenberger (Univ. Montpellier II), G. Metais (UMR 7207, MNHN), D. Néraudeau and R. Vullo (Univ. Rennes I), S. Peigné (UMR 7207, MNHN), J.C. Rage (UMR 7207, MNHN), S. Sen (UMR 7207, MNHN), R. Tabuce (Univ. Montpellier II), P. Tassy (UMR 7207, MNHN).
India G.V.R. Prasad (Univ. Delhi, Delhi).
Morocco H. Haddoumi (Univ. Mohamed 1, Oujda), N.E. Jalil (Univ. Cady Ayyad, Marrakech), S. Zhouri (Univ. Ain Chock, Casablanca).
Romania V. Codrea (Univ. Babes Bolyai, Cluj-Napoca).
Spain H. Astibia (Univ. Bilbao), G. Cuenca (Univ. Saragosse).
Switzerland L. Kocsis (Univ. of Lausanne, Lausanne).
UK R. Asher (Univ. of Cambridge), A. Goswami (Univ. College London).
USA D. Domning (Howard Univ.), P.D. Gingerich (Museum of Paleontology, Ann Arbor), K.D. Rose (Johns Hopkins Univ.).
Research agreement with University of Cluj (V. Codrea, Romania), University of Saragossa (G. Cuenca, Spain), University of Bilbao (X. Pereda-Suberbiola and H. Astibia, Spain), University Ain Chock Casablanca, Morocco), University Mohamed 1 (Oujda, Morocco); "co-leader of the Paleontological Franco-Moroccan program "Vertebrates from the JK transition of the Anoual Area, Morocco; "co-leader of the Franco-Moroccan Phosphapal program on the "Vertebrates from the Phosphates Basins", collaboration with the Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP), the Ministère de l'Energie et des Mines and Universities of Marrakech and El Jadida.
- Academy of Science from Romania & CNRS/DRI, Collaboration agreement 1995-1996 for field research: "Cretaceous and Paleocene vertebrates from Transylvania, Romania".
- National Geographic Society Grant for field work in Romania (july 2002) : "Paleocene-Eocene continental vertebrates from Transylvania, Romania: Oldest known Cenozoic mammals from Eastern Europe. Systematic, phylogenetic and paleobiogeographical implications. (Co-"Principal Investigator" with V. Codrea)
- MNHN-BQR (2005-8) and CNRS-PICS (2008-11) grants for field work researches: Vertebrates from the Moroccan phosphate basins (Ouled Abdoun and Ganntour) (Principal Investigator, and co-PI)
- National Geographic Society Grant for field work in Morocco (May 2010) : New researches in the early Cretaceous microvertebrates sites of the Anoual Syncline (Principal Investigator).
Master and PhD advisor
Master 1 - I. Mazzoni (UPMC 1993-1994), A. Aumont (UPMC, 1996-1997), N. Lambezat (SEP MNHN, 2005-2006), A. Schmitt (MNHN SEP, 2011-2012), A. Filippo (MNHN SEP, 2014-2015).
Master 2 - T. Trebaul (MNHN, 1999-2000), T. Ibrahim (UPMC, 1999-2000, co-direction with A. Person), C. Gallais-Serezal (MNHN SEP, 2001-2002), F. Solé (MNHN SEP 2005-6), M. Lecina (MNHN SEP , 2008-2009), A. Mille (2009-2010), M. Debuysschere (MNHN SEP, 2010-2011), A. Schmitt (MNHN SEP 2012-2013), C. Bronnert (co-direction with G. Metais MNHN SEP, 2014-2015), M. Lasseron (MNHN SEP, 2016-2017, co-direction with R. Allain, J.C. Rage, R. Vullo).
Ph.D Students (Thesis Advisor)
- A. Schmitt (2016) : La région de l'oreille osseuse chez les Proboscidiens (Afrotheria, Mammalia) : anatomie, fonction, évolution / The ear region of the Proboscidea (Afrotheria, Mammalia): anatomy, function, evolution. Co-advisors P. Tasssy and R. David. PhD Thesis MNHN defended in October 4, 2016.
- M. Debuysschere (2015) :Origine et première diversification des Mammaliaformes : apport des faunes du Trias supérieur de Lorraine, France. Co-advisor R. Allain. PhD Thesis MNHN defended in October 2015.
- F. Solé (2010) : First European carnivorous mammals (Oxyaenodonta, Hyaenodontida and Carnivora) : origin, evolution, paleoecology and paleobiogeography ; study of early Eocene faunas from the Paris Basin Ph.D. Thesis, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, defended in June 2010. Prize Perrissin-Pirasset 2011 of the "Chancellerie des Universités de Paris".
- E. Bourdon (2006) : L'avifaune du Paléogène des phosphates du Maroc et du Togo: diversité, systématique et apports à la connaissance de la diversification des oiseaux modernes (Neornithes). Ph.D. Thesis, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, defended in January 2006.
Jury Ph.D Thesis
- R. Tabuce (University Montpellier II, 2002) : Mammifères du Paléogène ancien d'Afrique du Nord occidentale : systématique, paléobiogéographie et apport à la phylogenie des ordres endémiques africains. Defended on March 5, 2002. [Referee]
- C. Delmer (MNHN 2005) : Les premières phases de différenciation des proboscidiens (Tethytheria, Mammalia): le rôle du Barytherium grave de Libye. 470 pp. Defended on November 4, 2005. [Referee]
- A. Ravel (University Montpellier II, 2012) : Origine et radiation des chiroptères modernes: implication des faunes paléogènes d'Afrique du nord et d'Asie du sud. Defended on December 19, 2012.
- J. Benoit (University Montpellier II, 2013) : Evolution des caractères crâniens et endocrâniens chez les Afrotheria (Mammalia) et phylogénie du groupe. Defended on November 6, 2013. [Referee]
Jury Habilitation (HDR)
- P.O. Antoine, HDR, Vertebrate Paleontology of Toulouse University, Dec. 2009. "The evolution of megaherbivores and their relation with major Cenozoic orogenes : Alps, Himalayas, and Andes" [referee]
- L. Marivaux, HDR, Vertebrate Paleontology of Montpellier II University), Sep. 2010 [referee]
- R. Tabuce, HDR, University Montpellier II, Sept. 2013). Les mammifères Afrothères : origine, premières diversifications et phylogénie. Defended on September 26, 2013.
Cretaceous and Paleogene mammals from Africa and Eurasia : origin, initial radiation and paleobiogeographical history of extant placental orders and primitive eutherians.
My research deals mainly with the early history of the placental mammals in the Arabo-African Province when the continent was insular, i.e., before the closure of the Tethys, in several respects: systematics, phylogeny, biostratigraphy and macroevolution (especially by the Cretaceous-Tertiary and Paleocene-Eocene transitions), paleoecology, and paleobiogeography.
The origin of the African placental colonization (phylogeny and paleobiogeography, geodynamic context) is a major, still unresolved question. The initial radiation of endemic African placentals, including ungulates (tubulidentates, hyracoids, embrithopods, proboscideans, sirenians), "creodonts" (hyaenodontids), primates (strepsirhines and simiiforms), macroscelideans and insectivores (tenrecoideans), is also one of the most important questions in contemporaneous mammalian paleontology.
I am also interested in the paleobiogeographical history of the Cretaceous-Paleogene mammals from the European province, with questions such as :
- the relationships between West and East European faunas ;
- the North - South European provincialism ;
- faunal exchanges between Europe and Asia (trans-Ouralian dispersals), and between Europe and North America ;
- trans-Tethyan faunal interchanges between Europe and Africa
Key-European mammal localities which are investigated in this regard are those of Lano (Spain; Gheerbrant & Astibia 1999), Tricouté (France, Gheerbrant et al. 1997a), Archingeay (France, Vullo et al. 2009), Campo (Spain, Gheerbrant et al. 1997b), Jibou (Romania ; Gheerbrant et al. 1999), and Le Quesnoy (France; Nel et al. 1999, Gheerbrant et al. 2005a).
My main working tools in this research are the comparative anatomy of dental and cranial fossil mammalian material, and the phylogenetic study (character analysis, cladistic analysis). I am especially interested in the morpho-functional approach of the mammalian dentition and paleodiets of early placentals.
The study is based on our rich MNHN collections, and also on field works in order to get new fossil data. The discovery of new Cretaceous and Paleogene fossil remains of mammals in Africa is especially one of the major challenges of the paleontology and phylogeny of the African placentals.
The Ouled Abdoun Basin (Morocco) has yielded the oldest African ungulates, including the first known representatives of the elephant order, the proboscideans (Gheerbrant et al. 1996, 1998, 2002, 2005b, 2009).
The Ouled Abdoun mammals are of primary significance to test the recent molecular phylogenetical hypotheses, especially the controverted superclade Afrotheria and the better supported Paenungulata (see Gheerbrant et al. 2005c).
Late Cretaceous and Paleocene mammals from Europe are also very poorly known and are also central in my field research. I am especially involved in the study of the mammal faunas from the late Paleocene of Transylvania (Jibou) and from the early Eocene of France (Le Quesnoy) which provide new data for the knowledge of mammal evolution at PE transition in Europe. My current field research focuses also on Campano-Maastrichtian sites from North (Tricouté) and South Pyrenees (Lano).
My systematic and phylogenetic work focuse on the primitive eutherian taxa such as "cimolestans", paleoryctids, pantolestans, palaeanodonts, "condylarths" and on the origin of the modern major placental lineages from these stem groups. Examples of current studies include the European "zhelestids" and "hyopsodontids" ("condylarths"), the early European lipotyphlans, the African condylarth stem groups (Ouled Abdoun), the primitive African hyaenodontid "creodonts", the earliest known representative of extant paenungulate orders, and the Paleogene African primates (e.g., oligopithecids from Oman).
The latest work on the Ouled Abdoun mammals provides new significant data (e.g, Boualitomus, and Lahimia) for an African origin of the Hyaenodontidae and its order "Creodonta" (Gheerbrant et al. 2006, Solé et al. 2009). We also recently published the monographic study of Phosphatherium (Gheerbrant et al. 2005b), including the skull reconstruction of this very primitive proboscidean, and an extended cladistic analysis of early proboscideans and other lophodont ungulates. This work suggests an old (at least Paleocene) African root for the elephant order (Proboscidea), and it supports a single clade for the African ungulates, the Paenungulata. This is evidenced by recent discovery and description of the archaic proboscidean Eritherium azzouzorum from the Paleocene of Sidi Chennane quarries ; Eritherium suggests moreover a recent and rapid paenungulate radiation after the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary.
My analysis of the paleobiogeographical history of African Paleogene mammals is based on an overview of the current phylogenetic hypotheses of the main African taxa and on a first data base of the known Paleogene fossil record of Africa.
In the course of my Habilitation thesis, I made the review of the paleobiogeographical history (e.g., endemism phases and trans-Tethyan dispersal phases) of the African Paleogene mammals (Gheerbrant 2001). In collaboration with J.C. Rage (UMR 7207, Paris), we have extended the review to the paleobiogeography of the whole vertebrate fauna of the Cretaceous and Paleogene of Africa (Gheerbrant & Rage 2006). It especially shows that Africa had a more complex paleobiogeographical history than the classical one seen in the context of the dual world of Laurasia versus Gondwana. This is illustrated by very early and repeated trans-Tethyan faunal exchanges with Laurasia, poor relationships with other Gondwanan continents since the opening of the South Atlantic, and marked endemic evolution (leading to major Tertiary endemic placental radiations), possibly as soon as the Early Cretaceous. It is shown that Africa took very early the main features of its currents biogeographical pattern, probably since the mid-Cretaceous (isolation from Gondwana + interchanges with Laurasia by way of the Mediterranean Sill).
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