Dr. Shuhai Xiao


As a geobiologist with a broad research interest in the evolution of the Earth-life system in deep geological time, Dr. Xiao brings a deep-time dimension and a global perspective to the Global Change Center. He studies the early evolution of eukaryotes, multicellularity, and animals, as well as environmental changes in the Proterozoic, using integrated sedimentological, geochemical, and paleobiological data. Much of his recent research projects are focused on the interactions between environmental changes and evolutionary innovations at critical transitions in Earth history, particularly the Ediacaran-Cambrian transition. These research projects have brought him to examine the rock record and fossil archive in many parts of the world, including China, northern Siberia, southern Namibia, Australia, and northern India.


Dr. Xiao currently chairs the Subcommission on Ediacaran Stratigraphy. He is a co-editor of three major international journals and serves on the editorial board of six other scientific journals. He is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and the Paleontological Society. He was a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Charles Schuchert Award, and the Virginia Tech Alumni Award for Research Excellence.

At Virginia Tech, Dr. Xiao has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Earth and Life through Time, Paleontology, Earth System History, and Topics in Geobiology. He has maintained a research group with a mixture of Master’s and PhD students, post-doctoral fellows, and visiting scientists. A number of his former advisees have academic positions in leading research universities.


Research Website

Recent Relevant Publications

Xiao, S., Q. Tang*, N. C. Hughes, N. R. McKenzie, and P. M. Myrow, What is underneath the Himalayan Foreland Basin in the Ganga Valley? Biostratigraphic and detrital zircon age constraints on the Ganga Supergroup. Terra Nova, 10.1111/ter.12235.

Shen, B., L. Dong, S. Xiao, X. Lang, K. Huang, Y. Peng, C. Zhou, S. Ke, and P. Liu, 2016, Molar tooth carbonates and benthic methane fluxes in Proterozoic oceans. Nature Communications, 6: 10317. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10317.

Ye, Q., J. Tong, S. Xiao#, S. Zhu, Z. An, L. Tian, and J. Hu, 2015. The survival of benthic macroscopic phototrophs in a Neoproterozoic snowball Earth. Geology, 43: 507-510.

Cui*, H., A. J. Kaufman, S. Xiao, M. Zhu, C. Zhou, and X.-M. Liu, 2015. Redox architecture of an Ediacaran ocean margin: integrated chemostratigraphic (δ13C – δ34S – 87Sr/86Sr – Ce/Ce*) correlation of the Doushantuo Formation. Chemical Geology, 405: 48-62.

Muscente*, A. D., F. M. Michel, J. Dale, and S. Xiao, 2015. Assessing the veracity of Precambrian ‘sponge’ fossils using in situ nanoscale analytical techniques. Precambrian Research, 263: 142-156.

Xiao, S., A. D. Muscente*, L. Chen*, C. Zhou, J. D. Schiffbauer, A. D. Wood, N. F. Polys, and X. Yuan, 2014. The Weng’an biota and the Ediacaran radiation of multicellular eukaryotes. National Science Review, 1: 489-520.

Schiffbauer*, J. D., S. Xiao, Y. Cai, A. F. Wallace, H. Hua, J. Hunter, H. Xu, Y. Peng, and A. J. Kaufman, 2014. A unifying model for Neoproterozoic-Paleozoic exceptional fossil preservation through pyritization and carbonaceous compression. Nature Communications, 5: 5754 (doi: 10.1038/ncomms6754).

Chen*, L., S. Xiao#, K. Pang, C. Zhou, and X. Yuan, 2014, Cell differentiation and germ-soma separation in Ediacaran animal embryo-like fossils. Nature, 516: 238-241.

Liu*, Y., S. Xiao#, T. Shao, J. Broce, and H. Zhang, 2014, The oldest known priapulid‐like scalidophoran animal and its implications for the early evolution of cycloneuralians and ecdysozoans. Evolution & Development, 16: 155-165.

Meyer*, M., D. Elliott, A. D. Wood, N. F. Polys, M. Colbert, J. A. Maisano, P. Vickers-Rich, M. Hall, K. H. Hoffman, G. Schneider, and S. Xiao, 2014, Three-dimensional microCT analysis of the Ediacara fossil Pteridinium simplex sheds new light on its ecology and phylogenetic affinity. Precambrian Research, 249: 79-87.