Nature Research Center

Lindsay Zanno, Ph.D.

Director, Paleontology & Geology Research Laboratory

B.S., Biological Anthropology, University of New Mexico, 1999
M.Sc., Geology, University of Utah, 2004
Ph.D., Geology, University of Utah, 2008

Other Appointments

Assistant Research Professor, Department of Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

Research Interests

Dr. Zanno’s primary interest centers on the anatomy, phylogeny, and paleoecology of theropod dinosaurs—a group that includes the iconic megapredator T. rex as well as living birds. Although theropods are colloquially known as predatory dinosaurs, Dr. Zanno’s research has demonstrated extensive dietary diversity among bird-like theropods, including widespread plant eating. She is currently one of the world’s leading experts on a bizarre group of herbivorous theropods dubbed therizinosaurs, some species of which possessed scythe-shaped hand claws more than five feet in length.

Dr. Zanno’s field-based research tackles patterns of faunal turnover, extinction, and replacement in ancient terrestrial ecosystems, with a current focus on the southwestern USA. Here she works to identify the influence of geographic and climatic variables on faunal dynamics during two particularly turbulent periods in the Cretaceous of western North America—the late Early Cretaceous, a time of interchange and turn-over associated with the initial establishment of a transarctic land bridge, and the Campano-Maastrichtian, a time of remarkably high dinosaur diversity associated with tectonic evolution of the Western Interior Basin. Dr. Zanno also studies the ontogeny and life history of fossil vertebrates through her research on bone histology and trait expression. Her team continues to unearth one of the world’s largest samples of a single theropod dinosaur species from a mass death site known as the Crystal Geyser Quarry.

As Director of the Paleontology & Geology Research Laboratory, Dr. Zanno supervises the fossil preparation and citizen scientist volunteer programs.

Selected Publications

Zanno LE, Makovicky PJ (2011) Herbivorous ecomorphology and specialization patterns in theropod dinosaur evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A 108:232–237; published ahead of print December 20, 2010, doi:10.1073/pnas.1011924108.

Zanno LE, Varricchio DJ, O’Connor PM, Titus AL, Knell MJ (2011) A new troodontid theropod, Talos sampsoni gen. et sp. nov., from the Upper Cretaceous Western Interior Basin of North America. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24487. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024487.

Zanno LE, Gillette DD, Albright LB, Titus AL (2009) A new North American therizinosaurid and the role of herbivory in “predatory” dinosaur evolution. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276:3505–3511.

Zanno LE (2010) A taxonomic and phylogenetic re-evaluation of Therizinosauria. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 8:503–543.

Zanno LE, Makovicky PJ (2011) On the earliest record of Cretaceous tyrannosauroids in western NorthAmerica: implications for an Early Cretaceous Laurasian interchange event. Historical Biology First published on: 24 February 2011 (iFirst), doi:10.1080/08912963.2010.543952.


Donate to the Paleontology Research & Expedition Fund

The Paleontology Research & Expedition Fund finances paleontological fieldwork and research at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, under the guidance of PGL director, Dr. Lindsay Zanno. Funds go directly to discover and research fossils across the US and abroad.