Michael J. Benton
The 2020 Jean Baptiste Lamarck Medal is awarded to Michael J. Benton in recognition of his outstanding contributions to vertebrate palaeontology, to palaeobiology and to macroevolution across times of extreme environmental change.
Michael Benton trained as a vertebrate palaeontologist at the universities of Aberdeen and Newcastle, where he was awarded a PhD in 1981. He started his scientific career with studies on Triassic reptiles and on the evolution of reptiles in the Paleozoic-Mesozoic. Early in his career Benton was interested in finding answers to fundamental questions about the evolution of life and investigated how environmental change impacted evolution. Benton published numerous fundamental contributions on phylogeny, on co-evolution of life and the environment, with a focus on specific time intervals of rapid climate change at the Permian-Triassic transition.
Benton investigated, among other themes, how life after an almost complete extinction recovered from the largest catastrophe in the Phanerozoic at the end of the Permian. He demonstrates in his studies how both biotic and abiotic factors shape the evolution of life, and how extrinsic factors like climate or plate tectonics control the large-scale pattern in the evolution of life over millions of years. Benton’s new and exciting research projects include studies on the evolution of tetrapods and morphospace, the evolution of birds and feathered dinosaurs, and the origin of feathers.
Benton is not only a global leader in the field of vertebrate palaeontology, as is reflected in his impressive bibliographic indices, but is also a gifted university teacher. His textbook on vertebrate palaeontology turned out to be extremely successful and has now been published in its fourth edition. A creative researcher and a motivating university teacher, Benton also finds the time to write books for the general public, including books on dinosaurs for children.
Benton’s excellence as researcher is reflected in the numerous prestigious medals and awards he has received, including the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London. For these outstanding contributions, Michael Benton is the recipient of the Jean Baptiste Lamarck Medal, which in 2020 is awarded in the field of palaeontology.