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


Ivan is module leader for:

  • Earth History and Life
  • Evolution of Vertebrates

Postgraduate supervision

Ivan Sansom is currently undertaking research projects in the following areas:

The Ordovician radiation of fish: a Gondwanan perspective on diversification in fluctuating palaeoenvironments
Cambro-Ordovician fish from North America
The palaeobiology of Ordovician fish from South America
The origins and early evolution of vertebrate biomineralisation
The origin of the gnathostomes

Dr Sansom welcomes enquiries from prospective doctoral researchers in his areas of interest.

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


Recent publications


Larkin, N, Henton, T, Etches, S, Wright, A, Chen, T-Y, Driscoll, L, Shelton, R & Sansom, I 2023, 'The fossil record’s oldest known calculus (an enterolith of the gastrointestinal tract), from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation (Upper Jurassic), UK', Proceedings of the Geologists' Association. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pgeola.2023.05.004

Dearden, R, Lanzetti, A, Giles, S, Johanson, Z, Jones, A, Lautenschlager, S, Randle, E & Sansom, I 2023, 'The oldest three-dimensionally preserved vertebrate neurocranium', Nature. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06538-y

Schnetz, L, Butler, RJ, Coates, MI & Sansom, IJ 2022, 'Skeletal and soft tissue completeness of the acanthodian fossil record', Palaeontology, vol. 65, no. 4, e12616. https://doi.org/10.1111/pala.12616

Andreev, P, Sansom, I, Li, Q, Zhao, W, Wang, J, Wang, C-C, Peng, L, Jia, L, Qiao, T & Zhu, M 2022, 'Spiny chondrichthyan from the lower Silurian of South China', Nature, vol. 609, no. 7929, pp. 969-974. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05233-8

Andreev, P, Sansom, I, Li, Q, Zhao, W, Wang, J, Wang, C-C, Peng, L, Jia, L, Qiao, T & Zhu, M 2022, 'The oldest gnathostome teeth', Nature, vol. 609, no. 7929, pp. 964-968. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05166-2

Dearden, RP, den Blaauwen, JL, Sansom, IJ, Burrow, CJ, Davidson, RG, Newman, MJ, Ko, A & Brazeau, MD 2021, 'A revision of Vernicomacanthus Miles with comments on the characters of stem-group chondrichthyans', Papers in Palaeontology, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 1949-1976. https://doi.org/10.1002/spp2.1369

Ezcurra, M, Butler, R, Maidment, S, Sansom, I, Meade, L & Radley, J 2021, 'A revision of the early neotheropod genus Sarcosaurus from the Early Jurassic (Hettangian–Sinemurian) of central England', Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, vol. 191, no. 1, pp. 113-149. https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlaa054

Andreev, P, Zhao, W, Wang, N, Smith, M, Li, Q, Cui, X, Zhu, M & Sansom, I 2020, 'Early Silurian chondrichthyans from the Tarim Basin (Xinjiang, China)', PLoSONE, vol. 15, no. 2, e0228589. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228589

Hedge, J, Shillito, A, Davies, N, Butler, R & Sansom, I 2019, 'Invertebrate trace fossils from the Alveley Member, Salop Formation (Pennsylvanian, Carboniferous), Shropshire, UK', Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, vol. 130, no. 1, pp. 103-111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pgeola.2018.10.002

Coates, M, Finarelli, J, Sansom, I, Andreev, P, Criswell, K, Tietjen, K, Rivers, M & La Riviere, P 2018, 'An early chondrichthyan and the evolutionary assembly of a shark body plan', Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences, vol. 285, no. 1870, 20172418. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.2418

Sallan, L, Friedman, M, Sansom, R, Bird, C & Sansom, I 2018, 'The nearshore cradle of early vertebrate diversification', Science, vol. 362, no. 6413, pp. 460-464. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar3689

Andreev, P, Coates, M, Karatajute-Talimaa, V, Shelton, R, Cooper, P & Sansom, I 2017, 'Elegestolepis and its kin, the earliest monodontode chondrichthyans', Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, vol. 37, no. 1, e1245664. https://doi.org/10.1080/02724634.2017.1245664

Sallan, L, Giles, S, Sansom, R, Clarke, J, Johanson, Z, Sansom, I & Janvier, P 2017, 'The ‘tully monster’ is not a vertebrate: characters, convergence and taphonomy in palaeozoic problematic animals', Palaeontology, vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 149-157. https://doi.org/10.1111/pala.12282

Miller, G, Heward, A, Mossoni, A & Sansom, I 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, pp. 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1080/14772019.2017.1314985

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Sansom, I & Andreev, P 2017, 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.

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