Dr Ivan Sansom

Dr Ivan Sansom

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Senior Lecturer in Palaeobiology

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Ivan is a vertebrate palaeobiologist who specialises on the evolution and diversification of Palaeozoic non-tetrapod vertebrates, including conodonts, with a particular focus on the earliest skeletonising fish and the origin of the sharks. Current research primarily focuses on patterns of dispersal within early vertebrates and the influence of their palaeoecology on diversity and extinction.


1992 – PhD, Durham University

1987 – BSc, Aston University


  • 2006-present Senior Lecturer in Palaeobiology, University of Birmingham
  • 1999-2006 Lecturer in Palaeobiology, University of Birmingham
  • 1996-1999 Post-doctoral research fellow, University of Birmingham "Phylogeny of Early Vertebrates"
  • 1995-1996 Post-doctoral research fellow, UMDS, Guy's Hospital "Origin, patterning and diversity of early vertebrate biomineralisation"
  • 1992-1995 Post-doctoral research fellow, University of Birmingham "The origin and early evolution of biomineralisation in conodonts and other early vertebrates"


Ivan is module leader for:

  • Earth History and Life
  • Evolution of Vertebrates


  • Systematics, taxonomy and anatomy of early aquatic vertebrates
  • Early evolution of chondrichthyans and the quality of their fossil record
  • Diversification patterns in Palaeozoic aquatic vertebrates
  • Body shape evolution and its constraints on habitat occupation in deep time
  • Palaeobiology and palaeoenvironmental distribution of conodonts

Other activities

2013 - 2016, Director of Education for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham

2012 - 2013, Academic Keeper, Lapworth Museum of Geology, University of Birmingham

2010 - 2015, Editorial board Journal of the Geological Society

2008 - 2011, Head of Education, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences


Publications since 2015

Sansom, I.J. & Andreev P.S. in press. The Ordovician enigma: fish, first appearances and phylogenetic controversies. In Z. Johanson, M. Richter, C. Underwood (eds) Evolution and Development of Fishes. Cambridge University Press

Coates, M.I., Finarelli, J.A., Sansom, I.J., Andreev, P.S., Criswell, K.E., Tietjen, K., Rivers, M.L. & La Riviere, P.J. 2018. An early chondrichthyan and the evolutionary assembly of a shark body plan. Proceedings Royal Society B 285:20172418; DOI.ORG/10.1098/RSPB.2017.2418

Miller, C.G., Heward, A.P., Mossoni, A. & Sansom, I.J. 2017. Two new early balognathid conodont genera from the Ordovician of Oman and comments on the early evolution of prioniodontid conodonts. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology DOI.ORG/10.1080/14772019.2017.1314985

Sallan, L., Giles, S., Sansom, R.S., Clarke, J.T, Johanson, Z., Sansom, I.J. & Janvier, P. 2017. The ‘Tully Monster’ is not a vertebrate: characters, convergence and taphonomy in Palaeozoic problematic animals. Palaeontology 60: 149-157

Andreev, P.S., Coates, M.I., Karatajūtė-Talimaa, V., Shelton, R.M., Cooper, P.R. &  Sansom, I.J. 2016. Elegestolepis and its kin, the earliest monodontode chondrichthyans. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 11/2016; DOI:10.1080/02724634.2017.1245664

Heward, A.P., Booth, G.A., Fortey, R.A., Miller, C.G. & Sansom, I.J. 2016. Darriwilian shallow-marine deposits from the Sultanate of Oman, a poorly known portion of the Arabian margin of Gondwana. Geological Magazine 09/2016; DOI:10.1017/S0016756816000819

Andreev, P.S., Coates, M.I., Karatajūtė-Talimaa, V., Shelton, R.M., Cooper, P.R., Wang, N.-Z. & Sansom, I.J. 2016. The systematics of the Mongolepidida (Chondrichthyes) and the Ordovician origins of the clade. Peerj 06/2016; 4(6), DOI:10.7717/peerj.1850

Andreev, P.S., Coates, M.I., Shelton, R.M., Cooper, P.R., Smith, M.P. & Sansom, I.J. 2015. Upper Ordovician chondrichthyan-like scales from North America. Palaeontology 04/2015; 58(4)., DOI:10.1111/pala.12167

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