MacPhee, Ross main content.

Ross MacPhee

Ross MacPhee, Curator in the Department of Mammalogy, Division of Vertebrate Zoology, and Professor at the Richard Gilder Graduate School, kneels in front of a recently discovered fossil.

Curator, Department of Mammalogy, Division of Vertebrate Zoology
Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School

Curriculum Vitae (short version)


  • University of Alberta, , Ph.D., 1977
  • University of British Columbia, B.A., 1969

Research Interests

MacPhee’s leading interests are paleobiogeography, extinction, and cranial developmental cranial morphology. With regard to paleobiogeography, he has worked on questions related to the mammalian and general vertebrate diversity of the West Indies, Madagascar, and, most recently, Antarctica, across time intervals from late Mesozoic to late Neogene. MacPhee also studies recent mammalian extinctions, concentrating on the loss of megafaunal species during the end-Pleistocene in North America and northern Asia. His research and that of his colleagues seeks to clarify the causal patterns behind these losses, most recently by studying population dynamics of fossil species using ancient DNA methods. The purpose of cranial developmental morphology is to explore the ontogenetic background of various character states expressed in adult forms. Most of his work involves interpretation of late fetal and adult stages of placentals, with increasing emphasis on micro-CT scanning as an aid to visualization.



Roberts EM, Meng J, Sertich JJW, Clarke JA, Lamanna MC, Gorscak E, O’Connor PM, MacPhee RDE (in press) Latest Cretaceous and ?earliest Paleogene paleoecosystems of Vega Island, James Ross Basin, Antarctica: stratigraphy, fossils, and implications. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology

Willerslev et al. (2014) Fifty thousand years of arctic vegetation change and megafaunal diet. Nature 506: 47–51 

Velez-Juarbe J, Martin T, MacPhee RDE, Ortega-Ariza DL  (2014) The earliest Caribbean rodents: Oligocene caviomorphs from Puerto Rico. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33: 157-163

Nalawade-Chavan S, Zazula GD, Brock F, Southon J, MacPhee RDE, Drukenmiller PS, Harington CR, Hodgkins G (2014) New single amino acid hydroxyproline radiocarbon dates for two problematic American mastodon fossils from Alaska. Quaternary Geochronology 20: 23-28.

MacPhee RDE (2014) The serrialis bone, interparietal complex, “x” elements, entotympanics, and the composition of the notoungulate caudal cranium. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 384: 1-69

Straehl FR; Scheyer TM; Forasiepi AM; MacPhee RDE; Sánchez-Villagra M (2013) Evolutionary patterns of bone histology and bone compactness in xenarthran mammal long bones. PLOSOne 8(7): e69275

MacPhee RDE, Greenwood A (2013) Infectious disease, endangerment, and extinction. International Journal of Evolutionary Biology 2013: id571939

MacPhee RDE (2013) Extinction. In Bobrowsky P (ed) Encyclopedia of Natural Hazards: 307-310 (Springer: Dordrecht)

Bininda-Emonds O, Beck R, MacPhee RDE (2012) Rocking clocks and clocking rocks: a critical look at divergence time estimation in mammals. In Asher R, Mueller J (eds) From clone to bone: the synergy of morphological and molecular tools in palaeobiology: 83-165(Cambridge University Press)

Claeson K, Eastman J, MacPhee RDE (2012) Definitive specimens of Merlucciidae (Gadiformes) from the Eocene of Seymour Island. Antarctic Science 24: 467-472

Clack AA, MacPhee RDE, Poinar HN (2012) Case study: Ancient sloth DNA recovered from hairs preserved in paleofeces. In B Shapiro, M Hofreiter (ed) Ancient DNA: Methods and Protocols (Methods in Molecular Biology, vol. 840): 51-56 (Humana, Dordrecht NL)

Clack AA, MacPhee RDE, Poinar HN (2012) Mylodon darwinii DNA sequences from ancient fecal hair shafts. Annals of Anatomy/Anatomischer Anzeiger 194: 26-30

Bond M, Kramarz A, MacPhee RDE, Reguero MA (2011) A new astrapothere (Mammalia, Meridiungulata) from La Meseta Formation, Seymour (Marambio) Island, and a reassessment of previous records of Antarctic astrapotheres. American Museum Novitates 3718: 1-16

Enk J, Debruyne R, Devault, A, King CE, Terangen TR, O’Rourke D, Salzburg S, Fisher D, MacPhee RDE, Poinar H (2011) Complete Columbian mammoth mitogenome suggests interbreeding with woolly mammoths. Genome Biology 12:R51  

MacPhee RDE (2011) Basicranial morphology and relationships of Antillean Heptaxodontidae (Rodentia, Ctenohystrica, Caviomorpha). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 363: 1-70

Arnold LJ, Roberts RG, MacPhee RDE, Haile JS, Brock F, Möller P, Froese DG, Tikhonov AN, Chivas AR, Gilbert T, Willerslev E (2010) Paper II—Dirt, dates and DNA: OSL and radiocarbon chronologies of perennially-frozen sediments in Siberia, and their implications for sedimentary ancient DNA studies. Boreas 40: 417-445

MacPhee RDE, Reguero MA (2010) Reinterpretation of a Middle Eocene record of Tardigrada (Pilosa, Xenarthra, Mammalia) from La Meseta Formation, Seymour Island, West Antarctica. American Museum Novitates 3689: 1-21

Szpak P, Gröcke DR, Debruyne R, MacPhee RDE, Guthrie RD, Froese D, Zazula GD, Patterson WP, Poinar HN (2010) Regional differences in bone collagen ∂13C and ∂15N of Pleistocene mammoths: Implications for paleoecology of the mammoth steppe. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 286: 88-96

Campos PF et al. (2010) Ancient DNA analyses exclude humans as the driving force behind late Pleistocene musk ox (Ovibos moschatus) population dynamics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107: 5675-5680

Teaching Experience

Faculty Appointments

  • Visiting Professor of Cell Biology, NYU Medical Center, 2005-present
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, 2004
  • Adjunct Professor, Doctoral Program in Anthropology, Graduate Center, CUNY, 1991-present
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, SUNY Stony Brook, 1989-present
  • Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy, Duke University, 1985-1988
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy, Duke University, 1979-1985
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Manitoba, 1978-1979
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Winnipeg, 1977-1978

Courses Taught

  • Extinction Science, Fall 2014 RGGS (tentative)

Graduate Advisees

Graduate Committees

  • Patricia Sutherland, University of Alberta
  • Eske Willerslev, University of Copenhagen

External Links