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John Long

John Long

Strategic Professor in Palaeontology, Flinders University

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Prof John Long researches the early evolution of vertebrates in order to unravel the stages of how the modern vertebrate body plan was assembled.

Many parts of our human anatomy had their origins back in the Early Palaeozoic (540-350 million years ago). This was when jaws, teeth, paired limbs, ossified brain-cases, intromittent genital organs, chambered hearts and paired lungs all appeared in early fishes.

He has conducted field work collecting fossils throughout Australia, SE Asia, South Africa, China and Antarctica.

Prof Long has served as the Vice President of Research and Collections at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (2009-2012), Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria (2004-2009) and as Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Western Australian Museum (1989-2004). He is currently the President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2014-2016) and the Vice President of the Royal Society of South Australia (2014-2016).

For the past 30 years Prof Long has been collecting fossils from the Gogo sites in northern Western Australia, whose perfectly preserved 3-D fish fossils have yielded many significant discoveries, including mineralised soft tissues, the origins of complex sexual reproduction in vertebrates.

His discoveries include the State Fossil Emblem of Western Australia (Mcnamaraspis), the mother fish with the world's oldest vertebrate embryo (Materpiscis), a tetrapod-like fish with large holes on top of its head for air-breathing (Gogonasus), and the oldest evidence for copulation in vertebrates (Microbrachius).

He has also worked on fossil heritage issues, working with Government agencies over the years to help solve fossil-related crime and repatriate fossils smuggled out of other countries including China and Argentina.

Prof Long is an author of many adult and children's books, including non-fiction and fiction, covering topics as diverse as evolution, dinosaurs, fossil fishes, prehistoric mammals, travels in Antarctica, the illegal fossil trade, climate change and the birth of human civilisation.

His most recent books include " Dawn of the Deed -The Prehistoric Origins of Sex" (University of Chicago Press, 2012) which gives an account of the Gogo discoveries and explores their relevance and other fossils showing evidence for sexual behaviour for understanding sex in an evolutionary context, and "Frozen in Time - Prehistoric Life in Antarctica" (with Jeffrey Stilwell, CSIRO Publishing 2011).

What evolution and motorcycles have in common: let's take a ride across Australia

Sep 30, 2018 22:08 pm UTC| Insights & Views Life

How can the development of motorcycles have anything to do with the story of the evolution of life on Earth? You need a palaeontologist to help answer that question, and one with a love of motorcycles. The article is...

Curious Kids: How many dinosaurs in total lived on Earth during all periods?

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The origins of those sexual organs: a fishy tale much more primitive than we thought

Jul 19, 2018 14:10 pm UTC| Insights & Views Nature

Fossil discoveries from the Devonian rocks of Scotland and Australia first revealed that the earliest jawed fishes, the placoderms, reproduced using copulation in much the same way as sharks and rays do today. They also...

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