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Photo of Patrick O'Connor

Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Anatomical Sciences
  • Department of Biomedical Sciences
  • Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • oconnorp@ohio.edu
  • 740-593-2110
  • 740-707-5008
  • Faculty Website

Areas of Expertise:
Africa, Anatomy, Antarctica, Birds, Dinosaurs, Evolutionary Biology, Evolutionary Morphology, Fossils, Paleontology, Vertebrate Morphology, Zoology

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The Faculty Newsmakers Gala is an annual event hosted by University Communications and Marketing Dr. O'Connor combines laboratory studies with field research to address how organisms are matched to their environments and how changing environments ultimately influence biotic diversity on the planet. Primarily focused on predatory dinosaurs, birds and crocodiles, his early work advanced traditional fossil interpretations by examining how different soft-tissue systems - in particular the pulmonary and nervous systems - 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.

Dr. O’Connor also conducts field research in various part of the world, including ongoing projects in  Tanzania, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt, and Antarctica. These field projects aim to characterize Mesozoic (~250 to 66 million years ago) land-living animals, particularly Cretaceous-aged dinosaurs, birds, and crocodilians, in an effort to understand relationships between biotic diversity and large-scale environmental (e.g., climate, landform alterations) factors. In recent years Dr. O’Connor has been involved with the discovery and description of the titanosaurian sauropod  Rukwatitan bisepultus  and the crocodyliforms  Pakasuchus kapilimai  and  Rukwasuchus yajabalijekundu  from the Cretaceous of Tanzania, the bizarre gondwanatherian mammal  Vintana sertichi  from the Maastrichtian of Madagascar, and several other Mesozoic and Cenozoic animals new to science.

This discoveries garnered much national and international media attention, including  National GeographicDiscoverThe New York Times, BBC News, MSNBC.com and FOX News. Field and laboratory work for these projects are funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Geographic Society.

O'Connor at a Glance :

  • Why Madagascar, Tanzania, and Antarctica are key locations for this type of research?
  • How dinosaur (and other) fossils indicate how ancient land masses were once interconnected?
  • How Antarctica has changed over the past 70 million years?
  • More information on other new species
  • Lab and field-based paleontology; expeditionary science.

O'Connor's Media Placements include:

  • New York Times
  • BBC
  • CNN
  • ABC
  • Los Angeles Times
  • A variety of other on-line science news outlets

Expert Video

Form Versus Function

Media Contacts

E-Mail monitored by University Communications and Marketing Team
media@ohio.edu
After hours on-call media specialist: 740.593.2200

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