Christopher Brochu

Chris Brochu
(319) 353-1808
221 TH
Curriculum Vitae: 
Research Interests: 
Vertebrate Paleontology

I’m a vertebrate paleontologist and systematist who applies phylogenetic methods to understand biodiversity. I’m interested in the reciprocal light morphological, genomic, and fossil data can shed on the phylogeny, distribution, and diversity of groups throughout their evolutionary histories.

Most of my lab’s work explores the phylogeny and historical biogeography of crocodyliforms – alligators, crocodiles, gharials, and their close relatives. Their low present diversity (23 recognized species) and rich fossil record gives us a rare opportunity to integrate the earth and life sciences.  We can synthesize molecular data from all living species with the deep-time perspective directly obtainable only from fossils.  Crocodyliform fossils are known from every continent and are ubiquitous in continental and nearshore deposits from the time they first appear in the Jurassic to the present.  We can look at biotic responses to climate and tectonic change over a variety of time scales.

Recent projects have focused on derived neosuchians and the origin of Crocodylia in the Late Cretaceous; the diversity and phylogeny of Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic crocodylians in North America and the Neotropics; conflicts over the relationships of crocodyliforms with long, narrow snouts; and the history of crocodylians in Africa and the western Indian Ocean over the past 30 million years.

Recent papers:

Cossette, A.P., and C.A. Brochu. 2020.  A systematic review of the giant alligatoroid Deinosuchus from the Campanian of North America and implications for the relationships at the root of Crocodylia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 40: e1767638.

Brochu, C.A., and C.D. Sumrall. 2020. Modern cryptic species and crocodylian diversity in the fossil record.  Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 189:700-711.

Brochu, C.A. 2020. Pliocene crocodiles from Kanapoi, Turkana Basin, Kenya.  Journal of Human Evolution 140:102410.

Schwab, J.A., M.T. Young, J.M. Neenan, S. Walsh, L.M. Witmer, Y. Herrera, R. Allain, C.A. Brochu, J.N. Choiniere, J.M. Clark, K.N. Dollman, S. Etches, G. Fritzch, P.M Gignac, A. Ruebenstahl, S. Sachs, A.H. Turner, P. Vignaud, E.W. Wilberg, X. Xing, L.E. Zanno, and S.L. Brusatte. 2020. Inner ear sensory system changes as extinct crocodylomorphs transitioned from land to water.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 117:10422-10428.

Wilberg, E.H., A.H. Turner, and C.A. Brochu. 2019.  Evolutionary structure and timing of major habitat shifts in Crocodylomorpha. Scientific Reports, 9:514.

Research Areas: