Mary Schweitzer

Research Curator, Paleontology

11 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27601


  • Ph.D. in Biology, Montana State University, 1995
  • Certificate (Secondary Ed./ Broadfield Science) Montana State University, 1988
  • B.S. in Communicative Disorders, Utah State University, 1977


  • Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, North Carolina State University
  • Associate Researcher, Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University

Research Interests

  • Molecular Paleontology: Preservation and detection of original molecular fragments in well preserved fossil specimens
  • Molecular diagenesis and taphonomy: The examination of exceptionally well preserved fossils-those with soft tissues, color patterns, or original hard-part mineralogy or molecular signals preserved. Why are they preserved that way, and what are the biogeochemical conditions that led to such preservation?
  • Evolution of physiological and reproductive strategies in dinosaurs and their bird descendants. Were dinosaurs warm-blooded, cold-blooded or something in-between?
  • Astrobiology: Can we use the tools of molecular paleontology to detect biomarkers not only in fossils but also in extraterrestrial samples? Did life never evolve on other planets? Did it evolve then go extinct? Or is it thriving now?

Peer-Reviewed Publications

  • Cleland TP, Zamdborg L, Zheng W, Lee J-I, Tran, JC, Bern M, Duncan MB, Lebleu VS, Ahlf DR, Thomas PM, Kalluri R, Kelleher NL, Schweitzer, MH. Mass spectrometry and antibody-based characterization of blood vessels from Brachylophosaurus canadensis and avian bone. In revision.
  • Schroeter ER, Cleland TP, Schweitzer MH, Lacovara KJ. 2015. Soft tissue and molecular preservation in Dreadnoughtus schrani, and exceptionally complete titanosaur from Argentina. Submitted.
  • Lindgren J., Moyer A., Schweitzer MH, Sjövall P, Uvdal P., Heimdal J., Nilsson DE, Gren J, Schultz BP, Kear BP. 2015. Interpreting melanin-based colouration through deep time: fossil melanosomes recognition criteria and related issues. In press.
  • Dacke, C.G, Elsey, RM, Trosclair, PL III, Sugiyama T, Nevarez, JG, Schweitzer, MH. Alligator osteoderms as a source of labile calcium for eggshell formation. In press..
  • Schweitzer MH, Schroeter ER, Goshe MB. 2014. Protein molecular data from ancient (>1 million years old) fossil material: pitfalls, possibilities and grand challenges. Analytical Chemistry. DOI 10.1021/ac500803w
  • Moyer, AE, Zheng, W, Johnson, EA, Lamanna, MC, Li, Da-qing, Lacovara, KJ, Schweitzer, MH. 2014. Melanosomes or Microbes: Testing an Alternative Hypothesis for the Origin of Microbodies in Fossil Feathers. Scientific Reports (Nature) 4:4233. DOI: 10.1038/srep04233
  • Schweitzer MH, Zheng, W, Cleland, T, Goodwin, MB, Boatman E, Theil E, Marcus, M, Fakra S. 2014. A role for iron and oxygen chemistry in preserving soft tissues, cells and molecules from deep time. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 281(1775) 20132741 (10.1098/rspb.2013.2741)
  • Schweitzer MH, Cleland TP, Zheng W, Bern M. 2013. Molecular Analyses of Dinosaur Osteocytes Supports the Presence of Endogenous Molecules. Bone 52:414-423. (Early online publication October 2012
  • Cleland TP, Voegele K, Schweitzer MH. 2012. Empirical evaluation of bone extraction protocols. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31443. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031443.
  • Cadena E, Schweitzer MH, 2012. Variation in osteocytes morphology vs bone type in turtle shell and their exceptional preservation from the Jurassic to the present. Bone 51:614-620.
  • San Antonio JD, Schweitzer MH, Jensen ST, Kalluri R, Buckley M, Orgel JPRO. Dinosaur peptides suggest mechanisms of protein survival. PLOS One 6(6): e20381.
  • Cleland TP, Stoskopf MK, Schweitzer MH. 2011. Histological, chemical, and morphological reexamination of the ‘heart’ of a small late Cretaceous Thescelosaurus. Naturwissenschaften 98 (3):203-211.
  • Schweitzer MH. 2011. Soft Tissue Preservation in Mesozoic Vertebrates. Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 39:187-216, doi 10.1146
  • Zheng W, Schweitzer MH. Chemical analyses of fossil bone. 2012. IN: Forensic Microscopy for Skeletal Tissues: Methods and Protocols. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol. 915 Chapter 10, Lynne S. Bell, Editor.
  • Green JL, Schweitzer MH, Lamm E-T. Limb bone histology and growth in Placerias hesternus (therapsida: anomodontia) from the Upper Triassic of North America. 2010. Paleonotology 53(2):347-364.
  • Schweitzer MH, Zheng W, Organ CL, Avci R, Suo Z, Freimark LM, Lebleu VS,. Duncan MB, Vander Heiden MG, Neveu JM, Lane WS, Cottrell JS, Horner JR, Cantley LC, Kalluri R Asara JM. 2009. Biomolecular characterization and protein sequences of the Campanian hadrosaur Brachylophosaurus canadensis. Science. 324:626-629.
  • Schweitzer MH, Zheng W, Organ CL, Avci R, Suo Z, Freimark LM, Lebleu VS,. Duncan MB, Vander Heiden MG, Neveu JM, Lane WS, Cottrell JS, Horner JR, Cantley LC, Kalluri R Asara JM. 2008. Endogenous protein preservation in Brachylophosaurus canadensis. In review, Science.
  • Asara, JM, Schweitzer MH, Cantley LC, Cottrell JS. 2008. Response to comment on ‘Protein Sequences from Mastodon and Tyrannosaurus rex Revealed by Mass Spectrometry’. Science. In press.
  • Schweitzer MH, Avci R., Collier T., Goodwin M. 2008. Microscopic, chemical and molecular methods for examining fossil specimens. Palevol 7:159-184.
  • Organ C.L., Schweitzer M.H., Zheng W., Freimark L.M., Cantley L.C., Asara, J.M. 2008. Molecular phylogenetics of mastodon and Tyrannosaurus rex. Science 320:499.
  • Asara JM, Schweitzer MH, Phillips MP, Freimark LM, Cantley LC. Protein sequences from mastodon (Mammut americanum) and dinosaur (Tyrannosaurus rex) revealed by mass spectrometry. Science. 316:280-285.
  • Asara J.M., Garavelli J.S., Slatter D.A., Schweitzer M.H., Freimark, L.M., Phillips M., Cantley L.C. 2007b. Interpreting sequences from mastodon and Tyrannosaurus rex. Science 317:1324-1325.
  • Schweitzer MH, Suo, Z, Avci, R. Asara JM, Allen MA, Teran Arce F. Horner JR. 2007. Analyses of soft tissue from Tyrannosaurus rex suggest the presence of protein. Science 316:277-280.
  • Schweitzer MH, Elsey RM, Dacke CG, Horner JR, Lamm ET. Do Egglaying Crocodilian (Alligator mississippiensis) Archosaurs Form Medullary Bone? Bone 40: 1152–1158 (2007).
  • Suo Z., Avci R., Schweitzer M.H., Deliorman M. 2007. Porphyrin as an ideal biomarker in the search for extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology 7(4): 605-615.
  • Schweitzer MH. The Sauropods. Copeia (in press) (book review).
  • Schweitzer MH, Wittmeyer JL, Horner JR. 2007. Soft tissue and cellular preservation in vertebrate skeletal elements from the Cretaceous to the present. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 274, 183–197.
  • Schweitzer MH, Wittmeyer JL, Horner JR. 2005. Gender-specific reproductive tissue in ratites and Tyrannosaurus rex. Science 308:1456-1460.
  • Schweitzer MH, Wittmeyer JL, Horner JR, Toporski JB. 2005. Soft Tissue Vessels and Cellular Preservation in Tyrannosaurus rex. Science 307: 1952-1955.
  • Avci, R., M. Schweitzer, R. D. Boyd, J. Wittmeyer, F. Teran Arce, J. O. Calvo. 2005. Preservation of bone collagen from the late Cretaceous period, studied by immunolocalization and atomic force microscopy. Langmuir 21(8):3584 – 3590.
  • Schweitzer MH, LM Chiappe, AC Garrido, JM Lowenstein, SH Pincus. Molecular preservation in Late Cretaceous sauropod dinosaur eggshells. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 272:775-784.
  • Channing, A, MH Schweitzer, JR Horner, T McEneaney. 2005. Novel preservation of a Pleistocene bird. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 272:905-911.
  • Schweitzer MH. 2003. The future of molecular paleontology. Paleontologica Electronica 5(2).
  • Schweitzer MH, CL Hill, JM Asara, WS Lane, SH PIncus, 2002. Identification of immunoreactive material in mammoth fossils. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 55:696-705.
  • Chin K, DA Eberth, MH Schweitzer, TA Rando, WJ Sloboda, JR Horner. 2003. Remarkable preservation of muscle tissue within a tyrannosaurid coprolite. Palaios, 18: 287-293.
  • Jackson, FD, MH Schweitzer, JG Schmitt. 2002. Dinosaur eggshell study using Scanning Electron Microscopy. Scanning, 24:217-223.
  • Schweitzer MH, and CL Marshall. 2001. A molecular model for the evolution of endothermy in the theropod-bird lineage. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Mol. Devel. Evol.) 291:317-338.
  • Schweitzer MH, FD Jackson, LM Chiappe, JO Calvo, DE Rubilar. 2001. Late Cretaceous avian eggs with embryos from Argentina. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 22(1):191-195.

Fields of Research