John Long

Strategic Professor in Palaeontology
John Long

Prof John Long is Strategic Professor in Palaeontology at Flinders. His research investigates the early evolution of vertebrates, showing how fishes first developed many of the anatomical structures and behaviours now associated with terrestrial animals, such a limbs, digits, lungs, endocranial structures, breathing and advanced sexual reproduction. Some of his most recent contributions are the on the origins of digits first appearing in the Devonian fish Elpistostege (a collaboration with Richard Cloutier, University of Quebec), and how the braincase development influenced brain shape in coelacanth fishes (with Hugo Dutel, Bristol University). Both studies were published in Nature recently.

John’s work is based on many decades of field work collecting at some of old most significant Devonian sites in the world, including Gogo, in Western Australia, where fossil fish remains are 3D preserved, sometimes with soft tissues intact. His work includes Devonian faunas for Antarctica (based on 4 expeditions there), as well as investigating sites in Victoria, Queensland, NT and NSW. He has active collaborations with leading scientists in Canada (Prof Richard Cloutier), Sweden (Prof Per Ahlberg), China (Prof Zhu Min), the UK (Dr Hugo Dutel Dr Tom Challands) and the USA (Prof Neil Shubin, Dr Ted Daeschler) as well as with other scientists in Australia (Prof Kate Trinajstic, Curtin Uni; Dr Gavin Young, Prof Tim Senden, The ANU).

John is currently investigating the evolution of the brain in early fishes with postdoc Dr Alice Clement (Flinders Uni) using micro-CT, synchrotron and neutron beam scanning to image the details of well-preserved braincases in Devonian and Carboniferous age fishes. He has many exciting research projects studying early fishes of all kinds to offer students at Honours or PhD level.

John’s work covers many topics, from vertebrate evolution, fishes, early tetrapods and marine reptiles to mass extinctions. He has over 350 publications, including peer-reviewed papers, popular articles and books and in 2020 won the prestigious Bettison and James Award for lifetime achievement benefitting Australian Society as both a scientist and science communicator.