Dr. Pittman, Michael

Dinosaur Ecosystems
Profile photo of Dr. Michael Pittman

Dr. Pittman, Michael

Research Assistant Professor

I’m a multi-disciplinary vertebrate palaeontologist from Hong Kong. Over the last 8 years I have been a Research Assistant Professor leading the Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory. I earned a BSc in Geology from UCL in 2006 before progressing to an MSc in Geoscience (palaeobiology) in 2007. I pursued a PhD on ‘The evolution and biomechanics of dinosaurian tails’ with Profs. Paul Upchurch and John R Hutchinson (RVC), completing in 2012.

My primary research interest is the evolution of dinosaurs, particularly the dinosaur-bird transition and the origin of flight. My research has filled significant gaps in our understanding of early flight development and has uncovered pertinent voids that I actively pursue and will continue to investigate in the longer term. I also have research interests in palaeocolour reconstruction as well as dietary reconstruction, feeding mechanics and cranial organisation in dinosaurs and other reptiles. 

I support my work with integrated study approaches involving modern anatomical imaging, chemical analysis, biomechanical modelling, developmental biology and phylogenetic reconstruction. Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence (LSF) is a laser-based imaging technique that I co-developed to reveal otherwise hidden anatomy preserved in fossils.

I have produced 32 peer-reviewed publications and the edited volume Pennaraptoran Theropod Dinosaurs: Past Progress and New Frontiers and achieved 725 citations and a h-index score of 15. I have published research in journals such as Systematic Biology, Biological Reviews, PNAS, Nature Ecology & Evolution, Science Bulletin, Nature Communications and Current Biology. My work has continuously received international media coverage including from the BBC and National Geographic. 

I support my work through active collaborations with a range of leading international experts. These include Prof. Xu Xing (IVPP, China), Prof. Xiaoli Wang (Linyi University, China) and Prof. Xiaoting Zheng (Tianyu Museum, China). My fieldwork in the Chinese Gobi desert led to the discovery of the dromaeosaurid Linheraptor and the alvarezsaurid Linhenykus. I currently have a fieldwork project in Patagonia with Dr. Diego Pol (MEF, Argentina).

My strong teaching background is recognised by an HE Advance Fellowship (FHEA) that draws on experience teaching undergraduate to PhD level courses and the award-winning MOOC Dinosaur Ecosystems

I contribute to university leadership and management as the Assistant Dean for E-Learning in the Faculty of Science, the Chairman of the departmental Outreach Committee and the departmental Advisory Board Secretary.

Prospective students and postdoctoral fellows with shared research interests are welcome to enquire about opportunities in my lab.

3917 7840
HOC304 Vertebrate Palaeontology Laboratory
ResearchGate / Google Scholar / ORCiD / @PalaeoPittman / Facebook / HK Geopark articles


EASC3402    Petrology (with Profs. Guochun Zhao & Min Sun)
MOOC & EASC1407 Dinosaur Ecosystems (with Prof. Xu Xing & Dr. Diego Pol)

Selected Publications

  1. Pittman, M. & Xu, X. (editors). 2020. Pennaraptoran theropod dinosaurs: past progress & new frontiers. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 440: 353pp, accepted 
  2. [lead editor; author of introduction and 8 chapters (1, 2, 4, 8-11 & 13); 49-author invited journal volume on feathered dinosaurs evolution; IF: 2.5; HKU press release; 12 citations] 
    Pei, R.*, Pittman, M.*, Goloboff, P.A., Dececchi, T.A., Habib, M.B., Kaye, T.G., Larsson, H.C.E., Norell, M.A., Brusatte, S.L. & Xu, X. 2020. Combining phylogenetic, aerodynamic and anatomical data reveals gradual build-up of powered flight potential among close avian relatives. Current Biology, 30(2): 4033-4046.e8 
    [joint-first and corresponding author; workload 40%; IF: 9.6; HKU press release; cover issue; 7 citations]
  3. Xu, X.*, Currie, P.*, Pittman, M.*, Xing, L.D., Meng, Q.J., Lü, J.C., Hu, D.Y. & Yu, C.Y. 2017. Mosaic evolution in an asymmetrically feathered troodontid dinosaur with transitional features. Nature Communications, 8: 14972
  4. [*joint-first-authors; workload 30%; IF: 12.1; HKU press release; 52 citations]
    Wang, X.L.*, Pittman, M.*, Zheng, X.T., Kaye, T.G., Falk, A.R., Hartman, S.A. & Xu. X. 2017. Basal paravian functional anatomy illuminated by high-detail body outline. Nature Communications, 8: 14576 
    [joint-first and corresponding author; workload 40%; IF: 12.1; HKU press release; 40 citations]
  5. Kaye, T.G.* & Pittman, M*. 2020. Fluorescence-based detection of field targets using an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle system. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 11(8): 890-898  
    [joint-corresponding author; workload of 30%; IF: 6.5; HKU press release; cover issue; 1 citation]