Dr. Sterling J. Nesbitt
Dr. Nesbitt’s research group at Virginia Tech centers on the evolution of vertebrates, particularly reptiles, over the last 300 million years. He is interested in influences of Earth processes on macroevolutionary events (mass extinction and adaptive radiations), morphological and taxonomic diversity, the consequence of latitudinal differences on an organism’s biogeography, comparative methods in phylogenetics, developmental influences on convergent evolution, and faunal evolution. A specialist on the reptile group that includes dinosaurs, birds, and crocodylians, Dr. Nesbitt is particularly interested in the rise of the living reptile fauna from its roots 230 million years ago. Most recently, he has started to incorporate questions focused on morphological change in invasive reptiles in Florida into his research program.
Dr. Nesbitt teaches undergraduate courses focused on Earth History (Earth and Life Through Time, GEOS 1014) and team-teaches an intense First Year Experience course for new Geosciences majors. At the Graduate level, he teaches Vertebrate Evolution (GEOS G5234) and has taught a seminar on mass extinctions through time.
Dr. Nesbitt is academically well traveled; undergraduate degree in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley; a PhD from Columbia University in Geosciences; a postdoctoral fellowship (NSF sponsored) from The University of Texas at Austin in Geosciences; a postdoctoral fellowship (NSF sponsored) at the University of Washington in Biology; and a postdoctoral fellowship (Meeker) at the Field Museum of Natural History. Currently, Dr. Nesbitt is an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech and is a research associate/affiliate of the American Museum of Natural History, the Vertebrate Paleontology Lab at The University of Texas at Austin, the Virginia Museum of Natural History, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the National Museum of Natural History. His fieldwork has taken him to Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Madagascar, Argentina, Mongolia, and all over the United States. Dr. Nesbitt has published more than 75 peer-reviewed contributions on subjects ranging from the evolution of individual bones in reptiles (e.g., the furcula of birds, the eye “bone” of crocodylians) to macroevolutionary patterns of early dinosaurs.
In the News
Recent Relevant Publications
LESSNER, E. J.**, PARKER, W. G., MARSH, A. D., NESBITT, S. J., IRMIS, R. B. and MUELLER, B. D. in review. New insights into Late Triassic dinosauromorph bearing assemblages from Texas using apomorphy-based identifications. Paleobios.
TABOR, N.J., MYERS, T.S., SIDOR, C.A., SMITH, R.M.H., NESBITT, S.J. and ANGIELCZYK, K.D. 2018. Paleosols of the Permian-Triassic: proxies for rainfall, climate change, and major changes in terrestrial tetrapod diversity. pp. 240–253 in C. A. Sidor and S. J. Nesbitt (eds.), Vertebrate and Climatic Evolution in the Triassic Rift Basins of Tanzania and Zambia. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 17. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 37(6, Supplement). Link
SIDOR, C.A. and NESBITT, S.J. 2018. Introduction to vertebrate and climatic evolution in the Triassic rift basins of Tanzania and Zambia. pp. 1–7 in C. A. Sidor and S. J. Nesbitt (eds.), Vertebrate and Climatic Evolution in the Triassic Rift Basins of Tanzania and Zambia. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 17. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 37(6, Supplement). Link
ROOPNARINE, P. D., ANGIELCZYK, K. D., OLROYD, S. L., NESBITT, S. J., BOTHA-BRINK, J., PEECOOK, B. R., DAY, M. O. & SMITH, R. M. H. 2018. Comparative ecological dynamics of Permian-Triassic communities from the Karoo, Luangwa, and Ruhuhu basins of southern Africa. pp. 254–272 in C. A. Sidor and S. J. Nesbitt (eds.), Vertebrate and Climatic Evolution in the Triassic Rift Basins of Tanzania and Zambia. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 17. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 37(6, Supplement). Link
BRADLEY, A.B. and NESBITT, S.J. 2018. A new specimen of Ruhuhuaria reiszi from the Manda Beds (?Middle Triassic) of southern Tanzania: Implications for small reptiles in the Middle Triassic. pp. 88–95 in C. A. Sidor and S. J. Nesbitt (eds.), Vertebrate and Climatic Evolution in the Triassic Rift Basins of Tanzania and Zambia. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 17. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 37(6, Supplement). Link
STEFANIC, C.M.* and NESBITT, S.J. 2018. The axial skeleton of Poposaurus langstoni (Pseudosuchia: Poposauroidea) and its implications for accessory intervertebral articulation evolution in pseudosuchian archosaurs. PeerJ, 6: e4235. Link
PONCE, D.A., CERDA, I.A., DESOJO, J.B. and NESBITT, S.J. 2017. The osteoderm microstructure in doswelliids and proterochampsids and its implications for palaeobiology of stem archosaurs. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. Link
PRITCHARD, A.C. and NESBITT, S.J. 2017. A bird-like skull in a Triassic diapsid reptile increases heterogeneity of the morphological and phylogenetic radiation of Diapsida. Royal Society Open Science. Link
BARTA, D.E.*, NORELL, M.A. and NESBITT, S.J. 2017. The evolution of the manus of early theropod dinosaurs is characterized by high inter- and intraspecific variation. Journal of Anatomy. Link
NESBITT, S.J., BUTLER, R.J., EZCURRA, M.D., BARRETT, P.M., STOCKER, M.R., ANGIELCZYK, K.D., SMITH, R.M.H., SIDOR, C.A., NIEDŹWIEDZKI, G., SENNIKOV, A. and CHARIG, A.J. 2017. The earliest bird-line archosaurs and assembly of the dinosaur body plan. Nature, 544: 484-487. Link
STOCKER, M.R., ZHAO, L.-J., NESBITT, S.J., WU, X.-C. and LI, C. 2017. A short-snouted, Middle Triassic phytosaur and its implications for the morphological evolution and biogeography of Phytosauria. Scientific Reports, 7: 46028. Link
LAING, A.*, DOYLE, S., GOLD, E.M., NESBITT, S., O’LEARY, M., TURNER, A., WILBERG, E. and POOLE, K. 2017. Giant taxon-character matrices: the future of morphological systematics. Cladistics. Link
GRIFFIN, C.T.* and NESBITT, S.J. 2016. Anomalously high variation in growth is ancestral for dinosaurs but lost in birds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113: 14757-14762. Link