Associate Professor of Anatomical Sciences
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
Dr. O'Connor combines fossil studies in the lab with field research in Madagascar, Tanzania, Egypt, Zimbabwe and Antarctica. Primarily focused on predatory dinosaurs and birds, his work advanced traditional fossil interpretations by his research examining how different soft-tissue systems - in particular the pulmonary system - influence the size and shape of features preserved on dinosaur skeletons. Through O'Connor's work, much more is now known about how dinosaurs looked, moved and functioned.
In 2010, O'Connor led a study published in the journal Nature that described fossils of an ancient, cat-like crocodile that roamed Tanzania 100 million years ago. Having mammal-like teeth, Pakasuchus kapilimai is described as a small animal - about the size of a modern day cat - that wasn't as heavily armored as other crocodiles, except along the tail. Other aspects of its anatomy suggest it was a land-dwelling creature that likely feasted on insects and other small animals to survive. The molar teeth of the new species possessed shearing edges for processing food, rather than exhibiting typical crocodile-like conical teeth, which are used to tear prey in large pieces.
This discovery garnered much national media attention, including National Geographic, Discover, The New York Times, MSNBC.com and FOX News. Field work for this project was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Geographic Society.
O'Connor and his international research teams have also found fossils of other animals alive during the Mesozoic Era, including numerous dinosaurs, crocodiles, birds and even rare mammals.
O'Connor at a Glance:
O'Connor's Media Placements include:
Form Versus Function
Areas of Expertise