Professor John Long

Strategic Professorship

College of Science and Engineering

+61 8 82012267
place Biological Sciences (326)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

Many parts of our human anatomy originated 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. For the past 30 years I have been collecting from the Gogo sites in northern Western Australia, whose perfectly preserved 3-D fish fossils have yielded many significant discoveries, including mineralised soft tissues and the origins of complex sexual reproduction in vertebrates.

Current research projects include investigating the diversity and palaeoecology of the Devonian Gogo reef faunal assemablage (DP 221008258); and describing the highly derived fish Elpistostege (with Prof R. Cloutier, University of Quebec at Rimouski),and investigating early tetrapod trackways from Ireland and Australia (with Prof. Per Ahlberg, Uppsala University). A recent focus on the Mansfield area, Victoria, is yeilding some significant new Devonian and Carboniferous fish fossils currently under study. I completed my 4th field season in Antarctica over 2018/19 with the USAP program working with Prof Neil Shubin from the University of Chicago and we will be researching the fish fossils we collected.

I am the author or editor of some 30 adult and children's books, including technical books, general non-fiction and fiction. Hung Like an Argentine Duck (Harper Collins 2011, Dawn of the Deed, U.Chicago Press, PB 2014) explores the relevance of fossils to understanding sex in a broad evolutionary context. Life Frozen in Time- Prehistoric Life in Antarctica (Stilwell & Long, 2011) gives a complete overview of the evolution of life in Antarctica (CSIRO Publishing). My next book covers the fascinating 500 million year evolutionary journey of sharks. It comes out in the US in July, 2024, entitled The Secret History of Sharks -The Rise of the Ocean's Most Fearsome Predators (Penguin Randon House, New York, 480pp).

  • Getty Museum Leadership course, 2010.
  • Ph.D, Monash University, 1984.
  • B.Sc Hons, Monash University 1981.  
Honours, awards and grants
  • 2023 The Whitely Medal for best Australian animal book for Prehistoric Australasia (CSIRO Publishing 2023)
  • 2022 DP22100825 The Devonian Gogo Fauna: Diversity, Palaeoecology and Global Significance ($507K)
  • 2020 Bettison and James Award for lifetime achievment in research and science communication ($50K)
  • 2020 DR200103398 Brains Frozen in Time ($408K)
  • 2016 Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research (TEPO team)
  • 2016 DP160102460 Resolving evolutionary problems at the fish-tetrapod boundary ($491K,)
  • 2014 Verco Medal for scientific research, The Royal Socierty of South Australia
  • 2014 DP140104161 Origins of electroreception and nocturnality in early vertebrates ($347K)
  • 2011 Research Medal of The Royal Society of Victoria
  • 2011 Finalist, The Eureka Prize for Scientific Research
  • 2009 Biomedical Sciences Annual Lecture, University of Queensland
  • 2009 Top Ten Species award by the International Institute for Species Exploration (for Materpiscis attenboroughi)
  • 2009 ARC DP1092870 On the Origins of Gnathostomes ($370K)
  • 2008 The Australasian Science Prize for peer-reviewed research
  • 2007 ARC DP0772138 Old Brains New Data ($528K)
  • 2007 Short-listed, Victorian Premiers Literary Awards, Swimming in Stone (Fremantle Press, 2006)
  • 2006 Australian Publishers Association Award for Best Primary Reference Book, The Big Picture Book (Allen & Unwin 2005)
  • 2006 The Wilderness Society Award for Environmental Literature ( non-fiction), The Big Picture Book
  • 2006 Short-listed, The Western Australian Premiers Literary Award, Best Children's Book for The Big Picture Book
  • 2006 Short-listed, The Children's Book Council of Australia, Eve Pownell Award, for The Big Picture Book
  • 2005 ARC DP0558499 Australia's Exceptional Devonian Fish Fossils and Tetrapod Origins ($280K)
  • 2003 The Riversleigh Society Medal
  • 2003 Serventy Memorial Lecture, Field Naturalist Society of Western Australia
  • 2003 The Whitely Award, Best Popular Zoological Book, Prehistoric Mammals of Australia and New Guinea (UNSW Press, 2002)
  • 2001 The Eureka Prize for Public Promotion of Science
Key responsibilities

Leading research directions in early vertebrate evolution, mentoring postgraduate students, and fostering international collaborations in palaeontological research. Previous President of the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology (2014-16) and President of the Royal Society of South Australia (2016-2019), I also served as Research Section Head of Ecology and Evolution within our college between 2017-2020.My roles with external organisation include currently serving as the Past President of the Royal Society of South Australia and as Chair of the Research Subcommittee of the Interagency Reference Group for the Naracoorte Caves World Heritage Fossil Site.

Teaching interests

I give lectures on life invading the land for first year biology, on fish (ichthyology) for second year biology, and contribute to lectures and a prac on fish evolution for the Vertebrate Palaeontology major course.

Supervisory interests
Early fish and tetrapod evolution
Evolution of the early vertebrate body plan
Palaeontology, advanced imaging techniques
Vertebrate palaeontology
Higher degree by research supervision
Principal supervisor: zoology, fish evolution, teleosts, phylogeny, Cenozoic (1), zoology, palaeoecology, electroreception, evolution, phylogeny, fishes, Devonian (1)
Associate supervisor: zoology, marsupials, teeth, evolutionary developmental biology, phylogeny, ecology (1)
Higher degree by research student achievements
Benedict King

Best student paper award 2016 - FEB 2016

Expert for media contact
Available for contact via
+61 8 82012267
Or contact the media team
+61 8 82012092
0427 398 713
Media expertise
  • Antarctica
  • Fossils
  • Palaeontology
  • palaeontology
Further information

Currently serving as The Past President of the Royal Society of South Australia (President 2016-2019), and am a Past President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2014-2016). I am a regular contributer of popular science articles for The Conversation website with over 2 million readers, and an author of popular science books for both adults and children.



I am part of the Flinders Palaeontology Group, one of the best places in Australia to study the deep history of life. This consists of the labs of the following academic staff and research fellows (and their research groups) addressing questions across all vertebrates - from fish to mammals, and the Cambrian to the Anthropocene.

The Conversation