François Therrien

M.S., Environmental Sciences (Geosciences), University of Rhode Island (1999)
Thesis: Theropod mortality in the Late Triassic Chinle Formation: a comparison of Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona) and Ghost Ranch (New Mexico)

B.S., Geology, Université de Montréal (1997)

Born in Montréal, Québec, I have been fascinated by prehistoric animals, especially dinosaurs, ever since my early childhood. Despite the abundance of Paleozoic and Quaternary invertebrate fossils in the area, my sole contact with paleontology had been through books and occasional trips to museums. In college, I became extremely interested in Earth history and the history of life, so I pursued and obtained a B.Sc. with honors in Geology at the Université de Montréal where I was the only student interested in “soft rocks” and fossils. Following the completion of my undergraduate studies, and with help from Drs. Robert Carroll (McGill) and Pierre Lespérance (UdeM), I moved to the U.S. and began a Master’s degree with Dr. David E. Fastovsky at the University of Rhode Island. With his guidance, my fascination for dinosaurs matured into an interest in the paleoecology of extinct organisms and in the paleoenvironments they inhabited. My thesis research took me to the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation of the American Southwest where I studied the paleoenvironments and preservation conditions of early theropods in the Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, and compared them to those observed at the famous Coelophysis Quarry of Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. After the fieldwork experiences, laboratory work, and the defense and publication of the results, I decided to broaden my horizons by tackling the biological aspect of vertebrate paleontology.

In recent years, I have been working on my Ph.D. at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine with Dr. David Weishampel. Of all the new fields to which I have been exposed, it is that of functional morphology that appeals to me the most. Using biomechanics to gain insight into the behavior of extinct animals, another approach to paleoecology, I have begun investigating feeding behaviors amongst extant and extinct crocodylians, phytosaurs, theropods, and sabertoothed mammals. However, I have not forsaken my geological background and my dissertation project reflects this. For over a century, Maastrichtian (latest Cretaceous) continental deposits, preserving the remains of multituberculates, crocodylians, turtles, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs, have been studied in the area surrounding Hateg, Romania. Some researchers even think that the K/T boundary may be present in these deposits. My dissertation project consists in determining the location (if present) of the K/T boundary and documenting the biodiversity and paleoenvironmental changes recorded in the Romanian deposits. This research, requiring a cm-by-cm study of the sedimentology and paleosols of the 2,000m-thick deposits, will shed light on the events that took place at the end of the Mesozoic in eastern Laurasia and offer the possibility to compare the recorded paleoenvironmental and biodiversity changes with those observed in contemporaneous deposits, such as the Hell Creek Formation of North America.

Curriculum Vitae


Therrien, F., Henderson, D.M., and Ruff, C.B, In press. Bite me: Biomechanical models of theropod mandibles and implications for feeding behavior. In K. Carpenter (ed.), The Carnivorous Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Therrien, F., Jianu, C.M., Scarlat, B., Weishampel, D.B., and King, J., 2002. Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of latest Cretaceous dinosaur-bearing formations of Romania: preliminary results. Sargetia, v. 19, pp. 33-59. [Paper]

Therrien, F., and Fastovsky, D.E., 2000. Paleoenvironments of early theropods in the Chinle Formation (Late Triassic), Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. PALAIOS, v. 15, no. 3, pp. 194-211. [Paper]

Therrien, F., Jones, M.M., Fastovsky, D.E., Herrick, A.S., and Hoke, G.D., 1999. The oldest Triassic strata exposed in the Petrified Forest National Park revisited. In Santucci, V.L. (ed.), National Park Service Paleontological Research, National Park Service Technical Report v. 4, pp. 101-108. [Paper]

Therrien, F., Submitted. Mandibular force profiles of extant carnivorans and implications for the feeding behaviour of sabertoothed predators. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

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