Professor Michael Benton OBE FRS

Michael Benton is a palaeontologist who has made fundamental contributions to understanding the history of life, particularly concerning how biodiversity changes through time. He has led in integrating data from living and fossil organisms to generate phylogenies — solutions to the question of how major groups originated and diversified through time.

This approach has revolutionised our understanding of major questions, including the relative roles of internal and external drivers on the history of life, whether diversity reaches saturation, the significance of mass extinctions, and how major clades radiate. A key theme is the Permo–Triassic mass extinction, the largest mass extinction of all time, which took place over 250 million years ago, where he investigates how life was able to recover from such a devastating event.

Michael has written engaging books for children on the theme of dinosaurs, as well as a significant number of palaeontology text books for university students. He founded the MSc in Palaeobiology at Bristol in 1996, from which more than 450 students have graduated. He has supervised more than 75 PhD students.


Subject groups

  • Earth and environmental sciences


  • Organismal biology, evolution and ecology