School of Earth and Environmental Sciences


Photo of Dr Mark Witton

Dr Mark Witton

  • Qualifications: PhD
  • Role Title: Honorary Research Fellow
  • Address: School of Earth & Environmental Sciences Burnaby Building Burnaby Road Portsmouth PO1 3QL
  • Telephone: 023 9284 2257
  • Email:
  • Department: Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Faculty: Science


Making myself a little like part of the furniture in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, I studied for a degree in Palaeobiology and Evolution between 2002 – 2005, conducted my PhD research here from 2005 – 2008, and now work in the department as a Research Associate. I specialise in the palaeobiology of pterosaurs and recently spent most of my time manufacturing several life-sized giant pterosaur models for display at the Royal Society’s 350th Anniversary bash in 2010.

Teaching Responsibilities

  • 2005-present: Demonstrator
  • Level 1: Introduction to Sedimentology (1GS133); Palaeontology (BGS279);  Planet Earth (1GS141)
  • Level 2: Stratigraphy and Sedimentology (BGS268); Palaeotechniques, Palaeobotany and Micropalaeontology (BGS279)
  • 2007 - present: lecturing
  • Level 2: Palaeoart lecture in Palaeotechniques, Palaeobotany and Micropalaeontology (BGS279)
  • Level 3: Dinosauria (); Vertebrate Palaeontology II ()
  • All levels: Technical drawing (lecture and practical sessions); palaeoart practical (lecture and practical sessions)


I’m primarily interested in pterosaur lifestyles – how they flew and walked, how they fed, their preferred habitats and whathaveyou – and have assessed direct fossil evidence of their feeding habits, attempted to model their body masses and used these estimates in flight models, and compared functional anatomy of pterosaurs to proposed modern functional analogues to assess their suitability to certain feeding habits. My speciality, I suppose, is making pterosaurs boring: my research suggests that many crazy ideas about pterosaur palaeobiology – that they skim-fed, lived almost exclusively along ancient shorelines, were hyperlightweight aeronauts that spent all their time in the air and ate nothing but fish – are incorrect. In the course of this research I’ve also described new pterosaur material and reappraised historically important specimens, identifying new types of pterosaurs in Brazil and Britain. Currently, I’m working on the flight capabilities of giant pterosaurs, and, in the near future, hope to reappraise the terrestrial capabilities of basal pterosaurs.


Research profile

Explore my research profile, publications and activities on the Portsmouth Research Portal

View profile