Dr Brian Choo

DECRA Fellow

College of Science and Engineering

place Biological Sciences (121)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

My research focuses on fossil fishes from the Silurian-Devonian in order to discover the origins of the modern vertebrate body plan. I completed my PhD at ANU/Museum Victoria in late 2010 and immediately commenced a full time postdoctoral research postion at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (Chinese Academy of Sciences), Beijing, China. I was given full access to the world famous fossil collections of the institute and co-authored a series of high-impact papers on early gnathostome evolution and Triassic marine faunas, involving collaborating with researchers at the institute as well as Kean University, New Jersey (Xiaobo Yu) and Uppsala Universitet in Sweden (Per Ahlberg, Qu Qingming). Notable discoveries include the so called "fish with the oldest face" Entelognathus which was featured in Nature, the first evidence of dermal pelvic girdles ancient in bony fishes and the first clear evidence of pelvic fins in antiarchs, the most primitive gnathostomes to possess homologues of our own legs. This latter project was considered of sufficient import to be prominently featured by Sir David Attenborough in the 2013 BBC documentary "Rise of Animals: The Triumph of the Vertebrates" in which I was credited as an advisor having provided the original "character sketches" for the animated fish reconstructions while providing corrections to the early drafts.

In March 2014, I commenced a full time postdoctoral research position at Flinders University, otable publication highlights for 2014 include the description of Megamastax, the earliest vertebrate apex predator (in Scientific Reports), fresh data on Devonian actinopterygians from Germany and Western Australia (in press in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology) and the earliest evidence for penetrative copulation in vertebrates. At present I am concluding several holdover projects from my time in Beijing and conducting preliminary research on undescribed Devonian fishes from Western Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

Qualifications

BSc in Biological Sciences. 1995, Murdoch University.

MSc Preliminary in Geology. 1996. University of Western Australia.

PhD (title = Revision and Description of the Actinopterygian fishes of Devonian Eastern Gondwana), Research School of Earth Sciences. 2005-2010, The Australian National University.

Postdoctoral Fellow (thesis title = The rise of gnathostome diversity: Evidence from the Siluro-Devonian fossil record of Yunnan, China), 2010-2013, Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleontology. Chinese Academy of Science.

Postdoctoral Fellow, 2014-current, School of Biological Sciences. Flinders University.

Honours, awards and grants

1994 Murdoch University CALM Award.

2002 Swancon “Dragon’s of the World” Art Award. Judges Choice

2004 International Contest of Dinosaur Illustration. Honorary Mention

2006 Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children's Literature.

Research interests

My current research focuses on early gnathostome evolution, in particular the origins of the earliest osteichthyans. I am at present focused on the description of new taxa of Devonian fishes from Australia and Silurian placoderms from Yunnan (in collaboration with the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology, Beijing). Notable recent work includes the most primitive jawed vertebrate (Entelognathus) with a modern complement of dermal cranial and gnathal bones, the presence of a dermal pelvic girdle in the earliest bony fishes and antiarch placoderms (a discovery featured in the TV documentary The Rise of Animals presented by David Attenborough), the largest Silurian vertebrate (Megamastax) and the description of new Devonian actinopterygians from Australia and Antarctica. Additionally, I have contributed to research on Mesozoic marine reptiles including Cretaceous ichthyosaurs from Western Australia and trackways from the Triassic of China that represent the first physical record of sauropterygian locomotion. I am also a professional scientific illustrator who has contributed artwork to a wide variety of journals, books and television programs.

Publications