Dr Duncan Murdock


Email: duncan.murdock@oum.ox.ac.uk
College profile page:  Junior Research Fellow, Linacre College  
Twitter: @djemurdock
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Research summary

Dr Murdock’s research is focused on using the fossil record to understand the early evolution of skeletons in animals. The earliest unequivocal animal fossils appear in the rock record almost ‘overnight’, largely in the form of microscopic disarticulated skeletal elements, an event known as the Cambrian Explosion. Locked within these shells, teeth and bones is a record of the expression of the molecular and developmental machinery that drove this event. By using high magnification electron microscopes and 3D X-ray imaging, it is possible to peer into the tiny differences in their microscopic internal structures and measure the variability of the shape of individual teeth, spines and shells. Using these data, Dr Murdock is able to disentangle the ecological, environmental and developmental drivers of the origination and diversification of biomineralisation in animals.


Duncan Murdock is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Museum and a Junior Research Fellow at Linacre College, co-funded by the John Fell Fund. Prior to this, Duncan was at the University of Leicester, where he was a Research Associate in the School of School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, using actualistic experiments of animal decay to understand the processes by which exceptional fossils form.

Duncan is a Fellow of the Geological Society of London and an Early Career representative on the Society’s Science Committee. He is also a member of The Palaeontological Association.

Featured publications

  • Experimental analysis of soft-tissue fossilization: opening the black box

    Purnell, MA, Donoghue, PJC, Gabbott, SE, McNamara, ME, Murdock, DJE, Sansom, RS
  • The impact of taphonomic data on phylogenetic resolution: Helenodora inopinata (Carboniferous, Mazon Creek Lagerstätte) and the onychophoran stem lineage.

    Murdock, DJE, Gabbott, SE, Purnell, MA
  • Decay of velvet worms (Onychophora), and bias in the fossil record of lobopodians.

    Murdock, DJ, Gabbott, SE, Mayer, G, Purnell, MA
  • Functional adaptation underpinned the evolutionary assembly of the earliest vertebrate skeleton.

    Murdock, DJE, Rayfield, EJ, Donoghue, PCJ
  • Evaluating scenarios for the evolutionary assembly of the brachiopod body plan.

    Murdock, DJE, Bengtson, S, Marone, F, Greenwood, JM, Donoghue, PCJ
  • More