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Dr Zixiao Yang

I have always been fascinated by how ancient creatures have survived millions of years and come to tell their very own life stories that were written not just in bones but also in delicate flesh and feathers. Therefore I consider myself very lucky to be able to study the Mesozoic Yanliao and Jehol biotas in China, which have yielded thousands of exquisite fossils of early birds, feathered dinosaurs, pterosaurs and early mammals, among others. I am particularly interested in the possible mechanisms responsible for their famous exceptional soft-tissue preservation (e.g. feathers, hair, skin, gill arches, eyespots, etc.), and the potentially rich biological and evolutionary information enclosed within the soft-tissue remains.


  • Yang, Z., Jiang, B., McNamara, M.E., Kearns, S.L., Pittman, M., Kaye, T.G., Orr, P.J., Xu, X. and Benton, M.J., 2020. Reply to: No protofeathers on pterosaurs. Nature Ecology & Evolution4(12), pp.1592–1593.
  • Tian, Q., Wang, S., Yang, Z., McNamara, M.E., Benton, M.J. and Jiang, B., 2020. Experimental investigation of insect deposition in lentic environments and implications for formation of Konservat Lagerstätten. Palaeontology63(4), pp.565–578.
  • Yang, Z., Jiang, B., McNamara, M.E., Kearns, S.L., Pittman, M., Kaye, T.G., Orr, P.J., Xu, X. and Benton, M.J., 2019. Pterosaur integumentary structures with complex feather-like branching. Nature Ecology & Evolution3(1), pp.24–30.
  • Wang, S., Hethke, M., Wang, B., Tian, Q., Yang, Z. and Jiang, B., 2019. High-resolution taphonomic and palaeoecological analyses of the Jurassic Yanliao Biota of the Daohugou area, northeastern China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology530, pp.200–216.
  • Yang, Z., Wang, S., Tian, Q., Wang, B., Hethke, M., McNamara, M.E., Benton, M.J., Xu, X. and Jiang, B., 2019. Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and biostratinomic analysis of the Jurassic Yanliao Lagerstätte in northeastern China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology514, pp.739–753.


  • 2021-present: Irish Research Council post-doctoral fellow at University College Cork (Ireland). Research Project: The coevolution of skin and feathers: insights from exceptionally preserved fossils of the Mesozoic Yanliao and Jehol biotas.
  • 2015-2021: PhD in Geology at Nanjing University (China). Thesis: Study on the biostratinomy and a new anurognathid pterosaur of the Yanliao Biota.
  • 2011-2015: BSc Paleontology/Stratigraphy at Nanjing University (China). Thesis: Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the Middle-Late Jurassic Daohugou Biota in Ningcheng County, Inner Mongolia, Northeast China.

Maria McNamara Research Group

Experimental and analytical taphonomy

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES), University College Cork (UCC), Butler Building, Distillery Fields, North Mall, Cork, T23 TK30, Ireland