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Dr Erich Fitzgerald

Senior Curator, Vertebrate Palaeontology

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I am a palaeontologist who investigates the evolutionary history of marine vertebrates, especially the marine mammals—whales, seals and sea cows—and their ocean environment. My work is focused on exploring the fossil record of marine mammals—one of the last frontiers for fossil discovery in Australia.

I seek to document the diversity, evolutionary relationships and palaeobiology of marine vertebrates through time and uncover the drivers of their evolution and extinction.

Studying the evolution of marine mammal diversity across geologic timescales permits us to track the impact of profound environmental changes on ocean ecosystems. At another scale, we can explore how and when the remarkable biological adaptations of today’s whales, dolphins and seals evolved. I am interested in the questions opened up by looking at extinct and living marine mammals as a continuum: to understand the past we must grasp the present. Consequently, I am keenly interested in the taxonomy, anatomy and natural history of living species of marine mammals, especially the cetacean fauna of Victoria.

Prior to joining Museum Victoria’s ongoing staff as Senior Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology in 2011, I was a Smithsonian Institution Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC: 2008–2009), and was the Harold Mitchell Fellow at Museum Victoria (2009–2011).

I am presently a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and a Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum, London.

Qualifications

Ph.D., Earth Science, Monash University, 2009

B.Sc., Geology and Zoology, University of Melbourne, 2003

Key publications

Hocking DP, FG Marx, T Park, EMG Fitzgerald, AR Evans. 2017. A behavioural framework for the evolution of feeding in predatory aquatic mammals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284: 20162750.

Park T, AR Evans, SJ Gallagher, EMG Fitzgerald. 2017. Low-frequency hearing preceded the evolution of giant body size and filter feeding in baleen whales. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284: 20162528.

Marx FG, DP Hocking, T Park, T Ziegler, AR Evans, EMG Fitzgerald. 2016. Suction feeding preceded filtering in baleen whale evolution. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 75: 71–82.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2010. The morphology and systematics of Mammalodon colliveri (Cetacea: Mysticeti), a toothed mysticete from the Oligocene of Australia. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 158: 367–476.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2006. A bizarre new toothed mysticete (Cetacea) from Australia and the early evolution of baleen whales. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 273: 2955–2963.

Links

Projects and events

Recent Grants

2015-2018 Australian Research Council: Building Giants: the Origins of Extreme Biology in Baleen Whales

Teaching and students

I'm available for student supervision.

Current Students

James Rule (PhD, Monash University)
The evolution and biogeography of seals in the southern oceans

Previous Students

Stephanie Ho (Honours, Monash University)
Pliocene fossil cetaceans and the modernisation of whale diversity and ecology off southeast Australia

Travis Park (PhD, Monash University)
The evolution of hearing in Neoceti, with an emphasis on toothed mysticetes

Matthew McCurry (PhD, Monash University)
Skull shape, biomechanics and feeding ecology in crocodilians and odontocetes: the functional correlates of convergent cranial morphology

David Hocking (PhD, Monash University)
Prey capture and processing in otariid pinnipeds with implications for understanding the evolution of aquatic foraging in marine mammals

Angela Olah (Honours, Monash University)
On the cutting edge of biomechanics: the relationship between carnassial tooth morphology and performance and the unique case of Thylacoleo carnifex

M. Roysul Islam (Honours, Monash University)
Systematics of baleen whales off southeast Australia during the Late Miocene-Early Pliocene

Ellyn Tomkins (Honours, University of Melbourne)
The stratigraphic and palaeoenvionmental setting of the Port Campbell Limestone at Portland, western Victoria

Travis Park (Honours, Deakin University)
Tracing the evolution of modern penguins using fossils from Australia

David Hocking (Honours, Monash University)
The case for filter feeding in the Antarctic leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) and its implications for the palaeoecology of fossil mysticetes

Darren Hastie (Honurs, Deakin University)
The earliest fossil seals of Australia: phylogenetic and biogeographic significance

Publications

Peer-reviewed journal articles

McCurry MR, EMG Fitzgerald, AR Evans, JW Adams, CR McHenry. 2017. Skull shape reflects prey size niche in toothed whales. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society doi: 10.1093/biolinnean/blx032

McCurry MR, CW Walmsley, EMG Fitzgerald, CR McHenry. 2017. The biomechanical consequences of longirostry in crocodilians and odontocetes. Journal of Biomechanics 56: 61–70.

Park T, FG Marx, EMG Fitzgerald, AR Evans. 2017. The cochlea of the enigmatic pygmy right whale Caperea marginata informs mysticete phylogeny. Journal of Morphology 278: 801–809.

McCurry MR, AR Evans, EMG Fitzgerald, JW Adams, P Clausen, CR McHenry. 2017. The remarkable convergence of skull shape in crocodilians and toothed whales. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284: 201623483.

Hocking DP, FG Marx, T Park, EMG Fitzgerald, AR Evans. 2017. A behavioural framework for the evolution of feeding in predatory aquatic mammals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284: 20162750.

Park T, AR Evans, SJ Gallagher, EMG Fitzgerald. 2017. Low-frequency hearing preceded the evolution of giant body size and filter feeding in baleen whales. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284: 20162528.

Hocking DP, MA Ladds, DJ Slip, EMG Fitzgerald, AR Evans. 2017. Chew, shake, and tear: prey processing in Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea). Marine Mammal Science 33: 541–557.

Marx FG, DP Hocking, T Park, T Ziegler, AR Evans, EMG Fitzgerald. 2016. Suction feeding preceded filtering in baleen whale evolution. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 75: 71–82.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2016. A late Oligocene waipatiid dolphin (Odontoceti: Waipatiidae) from Victoria, Australia. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 74: 117–136.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2016. Introduction. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 74: 1–3.

Park T, EMG Fitzgerald, SJ Gallagher, E Tomkins, T Allan. 2016. New Miocene fossils and the history of penguins in Australia. PLoS ONE 11 (4): e0153915.

Park T, EMG Fitzgerald, AR Evans. 2016. Ultrasonic hearing and echolocation in the earliest toothed whales. Biology Letters 12: 20160060.

Hocking DP, EMG Fitzgerald, M Salverson, AR Evans. 2016. Prey capture and processing behaviors vary with prey size and shape in Australian and subantarctic fur seals. Marine Mammal Science 32: 568–587.

Fitzgerald EMG, L Kool. 2015. The first fossil sea turtles (Testudines: Cheloniidae) from the Cenozoic of Australia. Alcheringa 39: 142–148.

Hocking DP, M Salverson, EMG Fitzgerald, AR Evans. 2014. Environmental enrichment can be used to promote biologically relevant foraging behaviours in captive Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus). PLoS ONE 9(11): e112521.

Benson RBJ, EMG Fitzgerald, TH Rich, P Vickers-Rich. 2013. Large fresh water plesiosaurian from the Cretaceous (Aptian) of Australia. Alcheringa 37:456–461.

Fitzgerald EMG, J Velez-Juarbe, RT Wells. 2013. Miocene sea cow (Sirenia) from Papua New Guinea sheds light on sirenian evolution in the Indo-Pacific. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33:956–963.

Godfrey SJ, JH Geisler, EMG Fitzgerald. 2013. On the olfactory anatomy in an archaic whale (Protocetidae, Cetacea) and the minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata (Balaenopteridae, Cetacea). The Anatomical Record 296:257–272.

Hocking DP, AR Evans, EMG Fitzgerald. 2013. Leopard seals use suction and filter feeding when hunting small prey underwater. Polar Biology 36:211–222.

Park T, EMG Fitzgerald. 2012. A review of Australian fossil penguins (Aves: Sphenisciformes). Memoirs of Museum Victoria 69:309–325.

Park T, EMG Fitzgerald. 2012. Late Miocene–early Pliocene Mihirung bird (Aves: Dromornithidae) from Victoria, Australia. Alcheringa 36:419–422.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2012. Possible neobalaenid from the Miocene of Australia implies a long evolutionary history for the pygmy right whale Caperea marginata (Cetacea: Mysticeti). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 32:976–980.

Fitzgerald EMG, T Park, TH Worthy. 2012. First giant bony-toothed bird (Pelagornithidae) from Australia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 32:971–974.

Fitzgerald EMG, MT Carrano, T Holland, BE Wagstaff, D Pickering, TH Rich, P Vickers-Rich. 2012. First ceratosaurian dinosaur from Australia. Naturwissenschaften 99:397–405.

Evans AR, D Jones, AG Boyer, JH Brown, DP Costa, T Dayan, SKM Ernest, EMG Fitzgerald, M Fortelius, JL Gittleman, MJ Hamilton, LE Harding, K Lintulaakso, SK Lyons, JG Okie, JJ Saarinen, RM Sibly, FA Smith, PR Stephens, J Theodor, MD Uhen. 2012. The maximum rate of mammal evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109:4187–4190. [Cover article.]

Fitzgerald EMG. 2012. Archaeocete-like jaws in a baleen whale. Biology Letters 8:94–96.

Nguyen JMT, M Molak, KH Black, EMG Fitzgerald, KJ Travouillon, SYW Ho. 2011. Vertebrate palaeontology of Australasia into the 21st century. Biology Letters 7:804–806.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2011. A fossil sperm whale (Cetacea, Physeteroidea) from the Pleistocene of Nauru, equatorial southwest Pacific. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 31: 929–931.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2010. The morphology and systematics of Mammalodon colliveri (Cetacea: Mysticeti), a toothed mysticete from the Oligocene of Australia. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 158: 367–476.

Jacobs LL, AR Fiorillo, Y Nishida, EMG Fitzgerald. 2009. Mid-Cenozoic marine mammals from Alaska; pp. 171–184 in Albright LB III (ed.), Papers on Geology, Vertebrate Paleontology, and Biostratigraphy in Honor of Michael O. Woodburne. Museum of Northern Arizona Bulletin 65.

Rich TH, P Vickers-Rich, TF Flannery, D Pickering, L Kool, A Tait, EMG Fitzgerald. 2009. A fourth Australian Mesozoic mammal locality; pp. 677–681 in Albright LB III (ed.), Papers on Geology, Vertebrate Paleontology, and Biostratigraphy in Honor of Michael O. Woodburne. Museum of Northern Arizona Bulletin 65.

Rich TH, P Vickers-Rich, TF Flannery, BP Kear, D Cantrill, P Komarower, L Kool, D Pickering, P Trusler, S Morton, N van Klaveren, EMG Fitzgerald. 2009. An Australian multituberculate and its palaeobiogeographic implications. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 54: 1–6.

Piper KJ, EMG Fitzgerald, TH Rich. 2006. Mesozoic to early Quaternary mammal faunas of Victoria, south-east Australia. Palaeontology 49: 1237–1262.

Long JA, GC Young, T Holland, TJ Senden, EMG Fitzgerald. 2006. An exceptional Devonian fish from Australia sheds light on tetrapod origins. Nature 444: 199–202.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2006. A bizarre new toothed mysticete (Cetacea) from Australia and the early evolution of baleen whales. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 273: 2955–2963. [Headline ‘Research Highlight’ in Nature 442: 850 (2006)]

Fitzgerald EMG. 2005. Pliocene marine mammals from the Whalers Bluff Formation of Portland, Victoria, Australia. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 62: 67–89.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2005. Holocene record of the dugong (Dugong dugon) from Victoria, southeast Australia. Marine Mammal Science 21: 355–361.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2004. A review of the Tertiary fossil Cetacea (Mammalia) localities in Australia.  Memoirs of Museum Victoria 61: 183–208.

Book chapter

Long JA, TH Rich, DJ Holloway & EMG Fitzgerald. 2012. Victoria. In Australia’s Fossil Heritage: A Catalogue of Important Australian Fossil Sites (A. Cook, J. Magee, K. Roberts, K. Douglas, K. O’Callaghan, R. Sanderson, eds.). Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing, pp. 89–109.

Edited volume

Fitzgerald EMG (ed.). 2016. Papers on Palaeontology Honouring Thomas H. Rich. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 74, Melbourne, 408 pp.

Popular Writing

Fitzgerald EMG, R Schmidt. 2015. Fossils of Beaumaris. Bayside City Council, Sandringham, 15 pp.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2012. The last of the flying giants. Australasian Science 33: 18–21.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2012. The whale from deep time. In Fossil Hunters 3 (South Australian Museum), pp. 15–21.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2012. Lost Serengeti of the sea: the marine megafauna of Beaumaris. Australian Age of Dinosaurs Journal 9: 70–78.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2011. The whale’s beginnings. In Killers in Eden: The Story of a Rare Partnership Between Men and Killer Whales (D. Clode). Melbourne: Museum Victoria, pp. 32.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2011. Evolution of dolphins and killer whales. In Killers in Eden: The Story of a Rare Partnership Between Men and Killer Whales (D. Clode). Melbourne: Museum Victoria, pp. 39.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2010. It’s about more than just whales. In Whaling (J. Healey, ed.). Thirroul: Spinney Press, pp. 38–39.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2007. It’s about more than just whales. The Age December 21: 11.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2006. Prehistoric whales surface. Museum Victoria Magazine Winter: 19.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2005. Bizarre baleen whales from Australia’s ancient seas. Australasian Science 26: 23–27.

Fitzgerald EMG. 2004. The fossil record of cetaceans (Mammalia) on the Australian continent. Fossil Collector 72: 5–32.

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