Catherine Forster

Catherine Forster
Professor of Biology
Bell Hall 312
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

Paleontology and systematics of dinosaurs; field collection of Mesozoic vertebrates.

Professor Forster is also involved in the Geological Sciences Systematics and Paleotology of Dinosaurs Program, particularly interested in Ornithiscia.

Current Research

My research involves the interpretation of Mesozoic-age fossils, particularly dinosaurs. My first love is the primary description of new taxa, including phylogenetic analysis of their position on the tree of life. Although I work primarily on dinosaurs, I have also happily done research on cynodonts, birds, crocodilians, and turtles.

My current projects:


Late Cretaceous Birds from Madagascar.

Numerous exquisitely-preserved bird fossils, mostly consisting of isolated elements, have been collected from the Late Cretaceous Maeverano Fm. from 1993 to the present. Dr. P. O’Connor (Ohio University) and I are describing these materials and placing them within a phylogenetic context. This avifauna is extremely diverse and spans a broad phylogenetic spectrum from very primitive to almost modern-looking forms. This work is part of a large, multi-faceted, NSF-funded research project in Mahajanga Basin of Madagascar, led by Dr. D. Krause, Stony Brook University.


South African Igunaodontian.

My colleague W. de Klerk (Albany Museum) and I are describing a new iguanodontian dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Kirkwood Fm., South Africa. We have the remains of at least 26 tiny, juvenile individuals collected from a single, small bone-bed horizon that may represent a nesting site. Nearly all specimens occur as isolated elements, but are often beautifully preserved. This new species is one of only three named ornithopod dinosaurs from all of southern Africa.


Basal ornithopod from China.

My longstanding interest in ornithopods has been invigorated by our resent discovery (see Dr. James Clark’s faculty page) of multiple individuals of a small, presumably basal, ornithopod in the Middle Jurassic Shishugou Fm., Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China. I am completing a full description of this taxon, and using the phylogenetic analysis of its placement within early ornithischians as a springboard to a larger project on ornithopod phylogeny (see below).


Ornithopod Evolution.

While still in its initial stages, a large phylogenetic study of Ornithopoda will form my next large research project in conjection with my colleague Dr. D. Weishampel (Johns Hopkins Univ.). Although phylogenies of portions of Ornithopoda exist, no study has yet attempted to examine the entire clade which, we feel, is necessary to gain a more thorough understanding of character evolution and tree topology in this large and diverse group.


Yinlong downsi.

Another extremely interesting new taxon from the Shishugou Fm., China, is the most primitive and oldest ceratopsian, Yinlong (see publication list below). I and colleagues J. Clark and X. Xu are currently writing up the long description of this taxon. Its unusual morphology serves as a great starting point for the innovations evolved in later ceratopsians (see below).


Ceratopsid Evolution.

Ceratopsid evolution is extremely restricted in both time (Late Cretaceous) and space (North America).  Along with colleagues S. Sampson (Utah), A. Farke (Webb School), and M. Loewen (Utah), we are beginning an NSF-funded study of of ceratopsid evolution. This study will include the description of a number of new taxa, a complete phylogenetic analysis of all ceratopsid species, biogeographic analysis, and an investigation into the tempo of ceratopsid evolution as it relates (or doesn’t) to the transgressive-regressive cycles of the Late Cretaceous Interior Seaways.


Field Work.

My current field work involves two areas: the Late Cretaceous Maevarano Fm., Madagascar, and the Middle Jurassic Shishugou Fm., China. I am actively working on Kirkwood Fm. materials (Early Cretaceous, South Africa), and hope to work there again in the near future.


B.A., B.S., University of Minnesota, 1982
M.S., University of Pennsylvania, 1985
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1990
Post-Doctoral Work: Dept. Of Organismal Biology, University of Chicago (1990-1994)


Forster, C. A. 1990. Evidence for juvenile groups in the ornithopod dinosaur Tenontosaurus tilletti. Journal of Paleontology 64(1): 164-165.

Forster, C. A. 1990. The postcranial skeleton of the ornithopod dinosaur Tenontosaurus tilletti. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 10(3): 273-294.

Forster, C. A.  1990. The cranial morphology and systematics of Triceratops, with a preliminary analysis of ceratopsian phylogeny. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Geology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, p. 227.

Sereno, P. C., C. A. Forster, R. R. Rogers, and A. M. Monetta. 1993. Primitive dinosaur skeleton from Argentina and the early evolution of Dinosauria. Nature 361: 64-66.

Forster, C. A. 1993. The taxonomic validity of the ceratopsid dinosaur Ugrosaurus olsoni (CoBabe and Fastovsky). Journal of Paleontology 67(2): 316-318.

Rogers, R. R., C. C. Swisher III, P. C. Sereno, A. M. Monetta, C. A. Forster, and R. N. Martínez. 1993. The Ischigualasto tetrapod assemblage (Late Triassic, Argentina) and 40Ar/39Ar dating of dinosaur origins. Science 260: 794-797.

Forster, C. A., P. C. Sereno, T. W. Evans, and T. Rowe. 1993. A complete skull of Chasmosaurus mariscalensis (Dinosauria: Ceratopsidae) from the Aguja Formation (Late Campanian) of west Texas. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 13(2): 161-170.

Arcucci, A. B., A. Caselli, C. Marsicano, F. Abdala, C. Forster, y C. May. 1995. Biostratigrafía e einterpretacíon ambiental de la Formacíon Los Rastros (Triásico Medio) en Quebrada de Ischichuca, Privincia de La Rioja. ACTAS II Reunion Sobre el Triásico del Cono Sur: 1-3.

Forster, C. A. 1996. New information on the skull of Triceratops. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16: 246-258.

Forster, C. A. 1996. Species resolution in Triceratops: morphometric and cladistic approaches. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16: 259-270.

Martínez, R. N., C. L. May, and C. A. Forster. 1996. A new carnivorous cynodont from the Ischigualasto Formation (Late Triassic, Argentina), with comments on eucynodont phylogeny. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16: 271-284.

Martínez, R. N. and C. A. Forster. 1996. The skull of Probelesodon sanjuanensis,. sp. nov., from the Late Triassic Ischigualasto Formation of Argentina. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16: 285-291.

Forster, C. A., L. M. Chiappe, D. W. Krause, and S. D. Sampson. 1996. The first Cretaceous bird from Madagascar. Nature 382:5 32-534.

Sampson, S. D., D. W. Krause, P. Dodson, and C. A. Forster. 1996. The premaxilla of Majungasaurus (Dinosauria: Theropoda), with implications for Gondwanan paleobiogeography. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16: 601-605.

Forster, C. A., S. D. Sampson, L. M. Chiappe, and D. W. Krause. 1998. The theropod origin of birds: new evidence from the late Cretaceous of Madagascar. Science 279: 1915-1919.

Forster, C. A., S. D. Sampson, L. M. Chiappe, and D. W. Krause. 1998. Genus Correction. Science 280: 185.

Sampson, S. D., L. M. Witmer, C. A. Forster, D. W. Krause, P. M. O’Connor, P. Dodson, and F. Ravoavy. 1998. Predatory dinosaur remains from Madagascar: implications for the Cretaceous biogeography of Gondwana. Science 280: 1048-1051.

Dodson, P., D. W. Krause, C. A. Forster, S. D. Sampson, and F. Ravoavy. 1998. Titanosaurid (Sauropoda) osteoderms from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 18: 563-568.

Forster, C. A. 1999. Gondwanan dinosaur evolution and biogeographic analysis. Journal of African Earth Sciences 28: 169-185.

Krause, D. W., R. R. Rogers, C. A. Forster, J. H. Hartman, G. A. Buckley, and S. D. Sampson. 1999. The Late Cretaceous vertebrate fauna of Madagascar: implications for Gondwanan biogeography. GSA Today 9: 1-7.

Schweitzer, M. H., J. A. Watt, R. Avci, C. A. Forster, D. W. Krause, L. Knapp, R. R. Rogers, I. Beech, and M. Marshall. 1999. Preservation of Keratin Epitopes in a Late Cretaceous bird from Madagascar. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 19(4): 712-722.

De Klerk, W. J., C. A. Forster, S. D. Sampson, A. Chinsamy, and C. F. Ross. 2000. A new carnivorous dinosaur from South Africa: the oldest coelurosaurian in Gondwana. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 20(2) 324-332.

Sampson, S. D., M. T. Carrano, and C. A. Forster. 2001. A bizarre new carnivorous dinosaur from Madagascar. Nature 409: 504-506.

Blob, R. W., M. T. Carrano, R. R. Rogers, C. A. Forster, and N. R. Espinoza. 2001. A new fossil frog from the Late Cretaceous Judith River Formation of Montana. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 21: 190-194.

Curry Rogers, K. and C. A. Forster. 2001. The last of the dinosaur titans: a new sauropod from Madagascar. Nature 412: 530-534.

Holmes, R. B., C. A. Forster, M. Ryan, and K. M. Shepherd. 2001. A new species of Chasmosaurus from the Dinosaur Park Formation of southern Alberta. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 38: 1423-1438.

Rogers, R. R., A. B. Arcucci, F. Abdala, P. C. Sereno, C. A. Forster, and C. L. May. 2001. Paleoenvironment and taphonomy of the Chañares Formation Tetrapod Assemblage (Middle Triassic), northwestern Argentina: spectacular preservation in volcanogenic concretions. Palaios.

Forster, C. A., L. M. Chiappe, S. D. Sampson, and D. W. Krause. 2002. Vorona berivotrensis, a primitive bird from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar, pp. 268-280 in Chiappe, L. M. and L. Witmer (eds.) Mesozoic Birds, Above the Heads of Dinosaurs. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Tykoski, R. S., C. A. Forster, T. Rowe, S. D. Sampson, and D. Munyikwa. 2002. The presence of a furcula in the coelophysid theropod (Dinosauria: Saurischia) Syntarsus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22: 728-733.

Carrano, M. T., S. D. Sampson, and C. A. Forster. 2002. The osteology of Masiakasaurus knopfleri, a new abelisauroid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22: 510-534.

Forster, C. A. 2003. Drifting Continents and Life on Earth, pp. 279-295 in A. Lister and L. Rothschild (eds.) Planet Earth. Cambridge University Press.

Gaffney, E. S. and C. A. Forster. 2003. Side-necked Turtle Lower Jaws (Podocnemididae, Bothremydidae) from the Late Cretaceous Maevarano Formation of Madagascar. American Museum Novitates 3397: 1-13.

Curry Rogers, K. A. and C. A. Forster. 2004. The skull of Rapetosaurus krausei (Sauropoda: Titanosauria) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 24: 121-144.

Clark, J. M., X. Xu, C. A. Forster, and Y. Wang. 2004. The Last of the Fleet-footed Crocs: a Middle Jurassic “Sphenosuchian” from China. Nature 430: 1021-1024.

Dodson, P., C. A. Forster, and S. D. Sampson. 2004. Ceratopsidae, pp. 494-516 in Weishampel, D. W., P. Dodson, and H. Osmolska (eds.) The Dinosauria. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Weishampel , D. W., J. R. Horner, and C. A. Forster. 2004. Hadrosauridae, pp. 438-463 in Weishampel, D. W., P. Dodson, and H. Osmolska (eds.) The Dinosauria. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Evans, D. C., C. A. Forster, and R. R. Reisz.  2005. The type specimen of Tetragonosaurus erectofrons (Ornithischia: Hadrosauridae), and the identification of juvenile lambeosaurines, pp. 349-366 in: Currie, P. J. and E. Koppelhus (eds.) Dinosaur Provincial Park. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Xu, X, J. M. Clark, C. A. Forster, M. A. Norell, G. M. Erickson, D. A. Eberth, C. Jia, and Q. Zhao. 2006. A basal tyrannosaur from the Late Jurassic of China. Nature 439: 715-718.

Grine, F., C. A. Forster, J. Georgi and M. A. Cluver. 2006. Cranial variability, ontogeny, and taxonomy of Lystrosaurus from the Early Triassic of South Africa, pp. 432-506 in Carrano, M. T., T. J. Gaudin, R. W. Blob, and J. R. Wible (eds.) Amniote Paleobiology: Systematics and Functional Perspectives on the Evolution of Mammals, Birds, and Reptiles. University of Chicago Press.

Xu, X., C. A. Forster, J. M. Clark, and J. Mo. 2006. A basal ceratopsian with transitional features from the Late Jurassic of western China. Proc. Of the Royal Soc. B 273: 2135-2140.

Krause, D. W., P. M. O’Connor, A. Rasoamiaramanana, G. A. Buckley, D. Burney, M. T. Carrano, P. S. Chatrath, J. J. Flynn, C. A. Forster, L. R. Godfrey, W. L. Jungers, R. R. Rogers, K. E. Samonds, E. L. Simons, A. R. Wyss. 2006. The importance of keeping the island’s fossils in the public domain. Madagascar Conservation and Development 1: 43-47.

Jia C., Forster, C. A., Xu X., and Clark, J. M. 2007. The first stegosaur (Dinosauria, Ornithischia) from the Upper Jurassic Shishugou Formation of Xinjiang, China. Acta Geologica Sinica (English edition) 81(3): 351-356.

Forster, C. A., A. A. Farke, J. A. McCartney, W. J. De Klerk, and C. F. Ross. In press. A “basal” tetanuran from the Early Cretaceous Kirkwood Formation of South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Classes Taught

GEOL 1002 – Historical Geology
GEOL/BISC 2151 – The History of Life
GEOL 3126 – Sedimentology and Stratigraphy