Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology: revealing the origin and evolutionary trace of human and other species

Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology: revealing the origin and evolutionary... View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide INTRODUCTION The Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is China's only national institute specializing in the studies of vertebrate paleontology, paleoanthropology, and the related areas of geological and biological sciences as well as paleolithic archaeology. The origin of IVPP can be traced back to the Cenozoic Research Laboratory, which was established in 1929, committing to the excavations of Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian. The lab was once affiliated to the Institute of Paleontology of CAS in 1951, then became the independent research Laboratory of Vertebrate Paleontology of CAS in 1953, and subsequently developed to a research institute in 1957. The current scope of IVPP’s research covers all branches of vertebrate paleontology and paleoanthropology. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide The excavation site of Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Beijing (A, B). A statue of Peking Man (C). Figure 1. View largeDownload slide The excavation site of Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Beijing (A, B). A statue of Peking Man (C). View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Accomplishments Since its starts, IVPP has made significant achievements in the groundbreaking discoveries, the richness and diversity of the collections, close ties with international academic communities, and the popularization of sciences. Today IVPP has research strengths of 177 staff members with diverse expertise and 102 graduate students. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide MAJOR RESEARCH FIELDS AND OUTPUTS IVPP has several strong research areas. Vertebrate paleontological research focuses on the morphology, taxonomy, phylogeny, paleoecology, and spatial and temporal distribution of the various vertebrate groups, as well as other relevant biogeographical, paleoclimatological, developmental and molecular biological issues. The paleoanthrological study mainly deals with origin and evolutionary history of fossil human and paleolithic archeology. Moreover, the study of applied anthropology and physical anthropology has also been emphasized in recent years. For decades, these research and findings have contributed significantly to a better understanding of life evolution in history of the Earth, thus placed the institution at the forefront of paleontology and the related filed of biology and geology. Top10  Scientific Discoveries in the World by the New York Times    2007: Largest-known bird-like dinosaur discovered in Inner Mongolia  Top10  Scientific Stories by Nature    2014: Human origins decoded by ancient DNA  Top10  Scientific Achievements by Science    2014: The origin of birds  Top100  Sciences Stories by Discover Magazine    2004: The first pterosaur egg with fetus in the world    2010: Fossilized melanosomes and the colour of Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds    2013: The oldest known primate skeleton and early haplorhine evolution  Top10  News Stories in Basic Research in China    2000: New research progress in paleoorithology    2000: Paleolith from Baise challenges "Movius line" theory    2001: Hadrocodium extends the history of mammals by 45 million years    2005: Discovery of a dinosaur devourer Repenomamus giganticus and two new pterosaurs    2009: Key evidences for the origin of birds  Top10  Scientific Discoveries in the World by the New York Times    2007: Largest-known bird-like dinosaur discovered in Inner Mongolia  Top10  Scientific Stories by Nature    2014: Human origins decoded by ancient DNA  Top10  Scientific Achievements by Science    2014: The origin of birds  Top100  Sciences Stories by Discover Magazine    2004: The first pterosaur egg with fetus in the world    2010: Fossilized melanosomes and the colour of Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds    2013: The oldest known primate skeleton and early haplorhine evolution  Top10  News Stories in Basic Research in China    2000: New research progress in paleoorithology    2000: Paleolith from Baise challenges "Movius line" theory    2001: Hadrocodium extends the history of mammals by 45 million years    2005: Discovery of a dinosaur devourer Repenomamus giganticus and two new pterosaurs    2009: Key evidences for the origin of birds  View Large Below are the active research programs and selected achievements in IVPP. The origin and evolution of early vertebrates View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide This research focus on three directions: origin and early evolution of jawed vertebrates and osteichthyans (bony vertebrates), and origin of tetrapods (land vertebrates), aiming to bring about new breakthroughs in the studies of early vertebrates and related biostratigraphy and paleogeographical issues. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide (A) Guiyu oneiros (dreamlike ghost-fish), the oldest known near-complete osteichthyan ever found in the world. [Zhu M, et al. Nature 458:469–474]. (B) Life reconstruction of Megamastax amblyodus, the largest vertebrate known in the Silurian, consuming the galeaspid Dunyu longiforus (Image by Brian Choo) [Choo Brian, et al. Sci Rep. doi:10.1038/srep05242]. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide (A) Guiyu oneiros (dreamlike ghost-fish), the oldest known near-complete osteichthyan ever found in the world. [Zhu M, et al. Nature 458:469–474]. (B) Life reconstruction of Megamastax amblyodus, the largest vertebrate known in the Silurian, consuming the galeaspid Dunyu longiforus (Image by Brian Choo) [Choo Brian, et al. Sci Rep. doi:10.1038/srep05242]. Mesozoic-Cenozoic fishes IVPP researchers have done a great deal of systematic paleontology work in early evolution of lower Actinopterygii and Neopterygii, providing better understanding of the co-evolution relationship between fish and environment, the change of the sea-land pattern, the formation process and mechanism of the trans-Pacific distribution pattern of fish. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide (A) Reconstruction of Potanichthys xingyiensis, the only over-water glider found in Asia and the oldest one lived during the Middle Triassic. [Xu G-H, et al. Proc R Soc B 280: 20122261]. (B) The complete skeleton and reconstruction of Robustichthys luopingensis. This new species is the oldest known ionoscopiform, and provides clues for the early evolution of halecomorph fishes. [Xu G-H, et al. Biol. Lett. 10: 20140204]. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide (A) Reconstruction of Potanichthys xingyiensis, the only over-water glider found in Asia and the oldest one lived during the Middle Triassic. [Xu G-H, et al. Proc R Soc B 280: 20122261]. (B) The complete skeleton and reconstruction of Robustichthys luopingensis. This new species is the oldest known ionoscopiform, and provides clues for the early evolution of halecomorph fishes. [Xu G-H, et al. Biol. Lett. 10: 20140204]. Lower tetrapods View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide The morphology, taxonomy, phylogeny, biostratigraphy, preliminary evolutionary biology and paleontology of the tetrapods are studied. Figure 4. View largeDownload slide (A) Life restoration of Odontochelys semitestacea (translation: half-shelled turtle with teeth). The incomplete shell shows how turtle’ shell were formed. [Li C, et al. Nature: 456, 497–450]. (B) The complete skeleton and reconstruction of Litorosuchus somnii. [Li C, et al. Sci Nat 103: 95]. Figure 4. View largeDownload slide (A) Life restoration of Odontochelys semitestacea (translation: half-shelled turtle with teeth). The incomplete shell shows how turtle’ shell were formed. [Li C, et al. Nature: 456, 497–450]. (B) The complete skeleton and reconstruction of Litorosuchus somnii. [Li C, et al. Sci Nat 103: 95]. Pterosaurs and ancient birds View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide A series of important achievements have been made in the study of morphology, systematics, function and paleontology of various groups of pterosaurs and ancient birds; With the combination of biological mineralogy, biogeochemistry, biomechanics and other studies on egg fossils, the research has made some pioneering progress in the establishment and development of paleoology as a new discipline. Figure 5. View largeDownload slide (A) Life reconstruction of eggs and juvenile and adult Hamipterus tianshanensis. Hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs and embryos were unearthed with well embryos preserved in three dimensions, revealing the life history of the pterosaur. [Wang X et al. Science 358: 1197–1201]. (B) Chiappeavis magnapremaxillo, a new pengornithid enantiornithine, preserves an array of tail feathers forming an aerodynamic surface. [O’Connor JK, et al. Curr Biol 2016: 114–119]. Figure 5. View largeDownload slide (A) Life reconstruction of eggs and juvenile and adult Hamipterus tianshanensis. Hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs and embryos were unearthed with well embryos preserved in three dimensions, revealing the life history of the pterosaur. [Wang X et al. Science 358: 1197–1201]. (B) Chiappeavis magnapremaxillo, a new pengornithid enantiornithine, preserves an array of tail feathers forming an aerodynamic surface. [O’Connor JK, et al. Curr Biol 2016: 114–119]. Mesozoic-Paleogene mammals and stratigraphy Based on the fossil materials, IVPP carried out studies on understanding of the composition and characteristics (such as middle ears, teeth) evolution of Mesozoic mammals. Figure 6. View largeDownload slide (A) This picture is the reconstruction of two gliding Euharamiyidan mammal with ear of five auditory bones, which is of great value to the study of the evolution of the mammalian middle ear. [Han G, et al. Nature 551:451–456]. (B) Archicebus achilles, the oldest known primate, is preying an insect in the artistic reconstruction. Discovery of this species illuminated an important event in primate and human evolution. [Ni XJ, et al. Nature 498, 60–64]. Figure 6. View largeDownload slide (A) This picture is the reconstruction of two gliding Euharamiyidan mammal with ear of five auditory bones, which is of great value to the study of the evolution of the mammalian middle ear. [Han G, et al. Nature 551:451–456]. (B) Archicebus achilles, the oldest known primate, is preying an insect in the artistic reconstruction. Discovery of this species illuminated an important event in primate and human evolution. [Ni XJ, et al. Nature 498, 60–64]. Jehol Biota View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide The Jehol Biota is very unique and most active research field. On the basis of extensive field investigations and excavations of vertebrates, this research includes studies of the origin and early evolution of birds, feathers and bird flight, the evolution of dinosaurs, early birds, mammals and amphibians, embryonic development of early birds and pterosaurs, and systematic and comprehensive study of the Jehol Biota. Figure 7. View largeDownload slide (A) A reconstruction of a two-tailed 120-million-year-old Jeholornis, indicating a complicated evolutionary path in the tails of early birds. [O’Connor JK et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110:17404–17408]. (B) A nearly complete skeleton of basal ornithuromorph bird, Bellulia rectusunguis. [Wang M et al. Zool J Linn Soc 176: 207–223]. (C) Repenomamus giganticus, the largest Mesozoic mammal ever found, fed on young dinosaurs [Hu Y et al. Nature 433, 149–152]. (D) Paleoecological reconstruction of Jehol Biota. Figure 7. View largeDownload slide (A) A reconstruction of a two-tailed 120-million-year-old Jeholornis, indicating a complicated evolutionary path in the tails of early birds. [O’Connor JK et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110:17404–17408]. (B) A nearly complete skeleton of basal ornithuromorph bird, Bellulia rectusunguis. [Wang M et al. Zool J Linn Soc 176: 207–223]. (C) Repenomamus giganticus, the largest Mesozoic mammal ever found, fed on young dinosaurs [Hu Y et al. Nature 433, 149–152]. (D) Paleoecological reconstruction of Jehol Biota. Neogene mammals and stratigrapy Based on a comprehensive study of mammals and their environmental backgrounds in North China, the phylogenetic and taxonomic relationships of major mammalian taxa are identified, and the succession sequence, transition process, ecological characteristics and migration pathways of the Neogene mammalian faunas are further recognized. The Neogene biostratigraphic system in China has been adopted as one of the Asian standards. Figure 8. View largeDownload slide (A) The reconstruction of three-toed horse (Hipparion zandaense) from the Zanda Basin. [Deng T et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109: 7374–7378]. (B) 3D reconstruction of cranium fossil of Panthera blytheae, the oldest known pantherine found in the Tibetan Himalaya [Tseng Z et al. Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20132686]. Figure 8. View largeDownload slide (A) The reconstruction of three-toed horse (Hipparion zandaense) from the Zanda Basin. [Deng T et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109: 7374–7378]. (B) 3D reconstruction of cranium fossil of Panthera blytheae, the oldest known pantherine found in the Tibetan Himalaya [Tseng Z et al. Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20132686]. Quaternary mammals and stratigraphy View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide This research focused on mammalian fossils and animal group founded in the Quaternary caves and fracture accumulation of the eastern and southern China, investigated relationship between the ancient mammals (including human) and the ecological environment, and determined the factors for biological diffusion, extinction events and the related background. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Figure 9. View largeDownload slide The orangutan fossil teeth discovered from Sanhe Cave provide new clues for the evolution and taxonomy of the orangutans in southern China [Wang C-B et al. Quatern Int 354: 68–74]. Figure 9. View largeDownload slide The orangutan fossil teeth discovered from Sanhe Cave provide new clues for the evolution and taxonomy of the orangutans in southern China [Wang C-B et al. Quatern Int 354: 68–74]. The origin and evolution of hominid in China A series of studies were carried out on the emergence and evolution of the early modern humans, their emergence time, health status, and related survival adaptation activities. Besides that, new progress has been made in the studies of the large apes and chimps. Figure 10. View largeDownload slide (A) 47 modern human teeth were unearthed in the Fuyan Cave in Daoxian, southern China, providing the earliest evidence of fully modern humans outside Africa and dispersal routes of modern humans. [Liu W et al. Nature 526: 696–699]. (B) The early Late Pleistocene archaic human crania from Xuchang, China reflects Pleistocene human evolutionary patterns in general biology, as well as both regional continuity and interregional population dynamics. [Li Z-Y et al. Science 355: 969–972]. (C) Genome data were achieved from the bone of a 40,000-year-old man (Tianyuan man) in China, and this first ancient human genome data in China region spans the world human genome. [Yang MA et al. Curr Biol 27: 3202–3208]. Figure 10. View largeDownload slide (A) 47 modern human teeth were unearthed in the Fuyan Cave in Daoxian, southern China, providing the earliest evidence of fully modern humans outside Africa and dispersal routes of modern humans. [Liu W et al. Nature 526: 696–699]. (B) The early Late Pleistocene archaic human crania from Xuchang, China reflects Pleistocene human evolutionary patterns in general biology, as well as both regional continuity and interregional population dynamics. [Li Z-Y et al. Science 355: 969–972]. (C) Genome data were achieved from the bone of a 40,000-year-old man (Tianyuan man) in China, and this first ancient human genome data in China region spans the world human genome. [Yang MA et al. Curr Biol 27: 3202–3208]. PUBLIC ACTIVITIES & OUTREACH Paleontology is one of the most attractive research fields that can arouse the public's curiosity to science. IVPP and their researchers make great efforts to the public communication of scientific achievements, and to improve the scientific education of the people. IVPP researchers have published thousands of articles in domestic and foreign popular science periodicals, books, and newspapers, and science monographs and translations, converting the latest research advances, biographic of scientists, documentaries of field work, and preservations of relic sites, etc. Many of these works have won national honors or awards. IVPP publishes 2 popular science magazines, Fossils and Dinosaur, aiming on the children for science education in geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide IVPP has been timely announcing the latest research progress and popular sciences developments through different channels. Activities include making news release to important national and international media, assisting in the production of audio-visual news for TV/radio stations and websites, as well as co-producing 2D, 3D and 4D movies. Some of these programs or movies have won national awards. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide The Paleozoological Museum of China (PMC) was founded by IVPP, and has currently been developing as a national science museum with millions of visitorship. The museum holds over 1000 fossils and collections, exhibiting the fascinating evolution stories from ancient fishes to humans and their artifacts. By welcoming the visitors, organizing the exhibitions in both China and overseas, holding educating and public programs, PMC plays important roles in systematically popularizing knowledge of paleozoology. Figure 11. View largeDownload slide The multimedia and interactive games in “Young Darwin Club” hosted by PMC. Figure 11. View largeDownload slide The multimedia and interactive games in “Young Darwin Club” hosted by PMC. IVPP has been actively involved in fossil-related operation for decades, such as organizing domestic and international exhibition, providing exhibition planning for other museums, reproducing fossil model, contracting for fossil skeletal reconstruction and installation, making reconstructive sculpture, as well as developing paleontological souvenirs. These activities not only boosted the academic collaborations between Chinese and foreign scholars, but also made IVPP and Chinese paleontology better known internationally. Figure 12. View largeDownload slide 2017 Dinosaurs of China exhibit at Nottingham's natural history museum, UK. Figure 12. View largeDownload slide 2017 Dinosaurs of China exhibit at Nottingham's natural history museum, UK. INTERVIEW NSR: Why did you choose IVPP? O’Connor: The IVPP is the best place in the world to work on Mesozoic birds, my research speciality. But more than that, one of the main reasons I’m a paleontologist is because of Chinese fossils. During my freshman year I learned about the amazing discoveries from the Jehol happening in China. That caused me to change the focus of my undergraduate thesis from volcanology to paleontology. I received a research grant and was able to go to China and visit the IVPP and participate in field work conducted in Inner Mongolia. That was in 2003 and I’ve never felt the need to work anywhere else. I finished my PhD in 2009 (spending one year of it at the IVPP) and moved to China to start a postdoc and 8 years later I’m still here with no plans to leave! View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Ni: My background is in biology and I always believe that evolution is the most interesting subject. IVPP is a world leading institute in vertebrate paleontology. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Fu: I chose the IVPP because it helps me to improve my ability as a group leader, and to recruit more capable individuals for my wet and dry lab research. The IVPP infrastructure is supportive of a starting-up independent group. The availability of computer tomography scans or stable isotope analysis generally complements our ancient DNA work in providing extra information about the ancient specimens. Moreover, I am familiar with IVPP, and it has been a personal promise to return to China from abroad to work here. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide NSR: What is your own research interest? Your proudest/greatest achievement thus far? And how did you benefit from IVPP? O’Connor: My research focuses on Mesozoic birds and their evolution from dinosaurs. A large majority of pertinent fossils are in China (e.g., non-avian dinosaurs Microraptor, Anchiornis, and Caudipteryx, and early birds Jeholornis, Confuciusornis, Sapeornis and the oldest enantiornithines and ornithuromorphs) making the IVPP the best place to work. Not only do I benefit from the impressive collection at the IVPP and other institutes with which we have close ties, I benefit from the Chinese governments positive attitude towards science, with no want for funding with which to conduct research. This gives me freedom to work on numerous fossils from many different perspectives without having to worry about the cost of cutting edge techniques like synchotron scanning, and I am free to attend as many conferences as I see fit and visit whatever collections worldwide necessary to compliment the data I collect in China. As far as my proudest achievements, there are several cool things we have discovered that I think fondly on. Myself and colleagues discovered the preservation of ovarian tissues in fossil birds 125–120 Ma. This was my only article published in Nature (Zheng et al., 2014)… but when people congratulate me I always say it's not that I wrote a Nature paper, the fossils presented themselves as a Nature paper. I would never get my research into such high impact journals if I didn’t have the opportunity to work on such amazing fossils. I have also teamed up with developmental biologists to understand the evolutionary development of unusual features we have identified in the fossil record. We have attempted to understand the molecular pathways responsible for extinct feather morphotypes (O’Connor et al., 2012) and for the evolution of sternal morphology within Aves (Zheng et al., 2012; O’Connor et al., 2015). These two projects are important because they take paleontology past the physical hard tissues that we have preserved using biology to gain a greater understanding of the actual mechanisms that produce the observed evolutionary changes. Ni: My own research interest is in the origin and evolution of primates. My recent achievement is the discovery and study on the earliest-known primate skeleton. I feel free to do any kind of research at the IVPP. That is the greatest benefit for me. Fu: My interest is researching about human evolution and genetic history, especially in Eurasia. My achievement is being recognized as a leading researcher in ancient DNA due to a number of significant contributions I have made in the past five years. For example, I was among the first to study archaic humans (Neanderthals and Denisovans) who lived in Eurasia several hundred thousand years prior to the arrival of modern humans. I demonstrated that modern humans already lived in Siberia 45,000 years ago, which is now the earliest acknowledged date for that region. I identified a 40,000 years old individual from Europe who had a very close Neanderthal relative, showing that modern humans not only interacted with Neanderthals in Middle East but also in Europe. Some of my recent work includes generating the ancient genome sequence of the 8,000 to 30,000 years old individuals from Upper Paleolithic Europe, and using this data to elucidate the early population structure, migration, inter-relationships among themselves and to people living in those regions today. IVPP has provided me with resources to pursue my projects and address finer research issues. NSR: What's unique culture for the science research in IVPP? O’Connor: I’m an American where we don’t have any research institutes dedicated to paleontology. In most American universities there are only one to a few paleontologists and the same goes for museums. But at the IVPP we have a huge team of researchers under one roof. If you come across something unusual you can talk to several experts within minutes. We share common issues like taphonomy and stratigraphy and we can work together on these. Ni: People of IVPP usually think they are among the best scientists. Sometime it is quite true! Fu: IVPP is a multidisciplinary institute with an assortment of experts, from those analyze the stable isotope of human skeletons to reveal about prehistoric diet, to the physical anthropologists who can spot the most informative samples. The unique culture here is that it is easier to collaborate on projects, thus enabling one to appreciate human prehistory from different angles. Altogether, these disciplines offer clues into the past, and it is important to keep an open mind. It can be mentioned that the institute administration is friendly and helpful, which allows the scientists to have more time to focus on research. NSR: What is the prospect of the institution in the future? How do you envision its role in global science and for China? O’Connor: I think our future is bright. We have had excellent leadership over the past years; Zhou Zhonghe is a very open minded and presbyopic director. He knows that the IVPP has the potential to be one of the top paleontology institutes in the world and he is doing everything he can to help the IVPP achieve this goal. Every idea I’ve had he has strongly encouraged and I think as the new generation of paleontologists in China start to dominate the IVPP will definitely become one of the top paleontology institutes in the world. Ni: IVPP will continue to be one of the leading institute in vertebrate paleontology. In next five years, IVPP will become one of the major center for multidimensional imaging of fossils and paleontological data analysis in the world. New discoveries from IVPP will continue to deepen our understanding of the nature world. Fu: In my opinion, there is a positive future prospect for the institute. Because it attracts young talented researchers within China and internationally here to do advanced science. There are also established senior researchers, who can supervise and offer critical appraisal about work. There is much creative energy. The role of IVPP can be to provide a prime example of an institute that is doing important and interesting researches in a motivated, open and transparent environment with interdisciplinary collaborations. SELECTED SCIENTIST PROFILES Tao Deng, Deputy Director/Research Professor, Department of Paleomammalogy, IVPP Tao Deng has long-term research interests to focus on the evolution of perissodactyl mammals, the Neogene terrestrial stratigraphy, and the late Cenozoic environmental changes. He and his team discovered vertebrate fossils from the Tibetan Plateau and its surrounding areas to imply a high plateau since the late Early Miocene. Their “Out of Tibet” hypothesis has revealed that the Pliocene mammalian fauna of the Zanda Basin in the Tibetan Plateau showed initiation of cold-adapted lineages that predate Ice Age megafauna, which indicated that the Tibetan Plateau reached its modern elevation. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Xing Gao, Head/Professor, Department of Paleoanthropology, IVPP Xing Gao obtained his Ph.D degree from the University of Arizona in 2000 and was chosen to the One-Hundred Talents Program by CAS. His research focuses on hominid technology and adaptation in Paleolithic age and the origin of modern humans. His group has been engaged in excavating many key archaeological sites and studying the uniqueness of the Chinese Paleolithic cultures and the complexity and variability of human adaptive strategies in Eurasia during Pleistocene. He has become a major advocator for the theory of diversity and regional continuity of human evolution and published extensively on modern human origins in East Asia. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Wu Liu, Research Professor, Department of Paleoanthropology, IVPP Wu Liu has been doing his research in human evolution and related physical anthropology. In the past 10 years, he and his research team conducted a series of field survey, excavations and lab studies with a series of human fossil discovery and research progresses achieved. The discoveries and morphological studies of Late Pleistocene human fossils from the Huanglong Cave and Zhiren Cave put the time of modern human emergence in China as early as about 100 ka. The 47 human teeth with age of 120–80 ka found in the Daoxian are regarded the earliest modern human in East Asia. Based on these findings, they propose South China is the key region of modern human emergence and dispersal. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Xing Xu, Research Professor, IVPP Xing Xu studies the Mesozoic terrestrial faunas of China and other countries from a variety of perspectives. His main research areas are dinosaur taxonomy and the morphological of several dinosaur groups, particularly the theropods. One of Xu's current research projects aims to reconstruct a robust theropod phylogeny and use it to analyze the evolution of important avian structures such as feathers, the wing and beak in a phylogenetic framework, combining both paleontological and neontological data. Xu has conducted fieldwork in the major dinosaur-bearing regions of China, as well as in other countries such as Mongolia and Canada. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Zhonghe Zhou, Director/Research Professor, IVPP Zhonghe Zhou received his PhD degree at the University of Kansas in 1999. His main research interest is on the origin and early evolution of birds, feathers and bird flight. Recently his group has studied various aspects of the biology (e.g., skeletal development, reproductive and digestive systems etc.) of the transition from dinosaurs to birds. He has also been involved in the study of Mesozoic fishes, feathered dinosaurs, pterosaurs, stratigraphy and the evolution of the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota, the relationship between the biological radiation and its geological and paleoenvironmental background in order to better understand the evolution and reconstruction of the Lower Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystem. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Min Zhu, Director/Research Professor of Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of CAS, IVPP Ming Zhu obtained his PhD degree in 1990 from Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, CAS. Through over 100 scientific papers and books, he has made outstanding contributions to the studies on the morphology, histology, phylogeny, biogeography and evolutionary history of many early fish groups. He is recognized for revitalizing the quest for the origin of osteichthyans (bony fishes and tetrapods) from non-osteichthyan gnathostome groups, backed by his field work to unveil many early fossils with exceptional character complement, and unique contributions to the research on the fish-tetrapod transition and the origin of jaw as well. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide NOTES The pictures and materials are supplied by courtesy of IVPP. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of China Science Publishing & Media Ltd. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png National Science Review Oxford University Press

Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology: revealing the origin and evolutionary trace of human and other species

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of China Science Publishing & Media Ltd. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com
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2095-5138
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Abstract

View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide INTRODUCTION The Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is China's only national institute specializing in the studies of vertebrate paleontology, paleoanthropology, and the related areas of geological and biological sciences as well as paleolithic archaeology. The origin of IVPP can be traced back to the Cenozoic Research Laboratory, which was established in 1929, committing to the excavations of Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian. The lab was once affiliated to the Institute of Paleontology of CAS in 1951, then became the independent research Laboratory of Vertebrate Paleontology of CAS in 1953, and subsequently developed to a research institute in 1957. The current scope of IVPP’s research covers all branches of vertebrate paleontology and paleoanthropology. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide The excavation site of Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Beijing (A, B). A statue of Peking Man (C). Figure 1. View largeDownload slide The excavation site of Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Beijing (A, B). A statue of Peking Man (C). View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Accomplishments Since its starts, IVPP has made significant achievements in the groundbreaking discoveries, the richness and diversity of the collections, close ties with international academic communities, and the popularization of sciences. Today IVPP has research strengths of 177 staff members with diverse expertise and 102 graduate students. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide MAJOR RESEARCH FIELDS AND OUTPUTS IVPP has several strong research areas. Vertebrate paleontological research focuses on the morphology, taxonomy, phylogeny, paleoecology, and spatial and temporal distribution of the various vertebrate groups, as well as other relevant biogeographical, paleoclimatological, developmental and molecular biological issues. The paleoanthrological study mainly deals with origin and evolutionary history of fossil human and paleolithic archeology. Moreover, the study of applied anthropology and physical anthropology has also been emphasized in recent years. For decades, these research and findings have contributed significantly to a better understanding of life evolution in history of the Earth, thus placed the institution at the forefront of paleontology and the related filed of biology and geology. Top10  Scientific Discoveries in the World by the New York Times    2007: Largest-known bird-like dinosaur discovered in Inner Mongolia  Top10  Scientific Stories by Nature    2014: Human origins decoded by ancient DNA  Top10  Scientific Achievements by Science    2014: The origin of birds  Top100  Sciences Stories by Discover Magazine    2004: The first pterosaur egg with fetus in the world    2010: Fossilized melanosomes and the colour of Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds    2013: The oldest known primate skeleton and early haplorhine evolution  Top10  News Stories in Basic Research in China    2000: New research progress in paleoorithology    2000: Paleolith from Baise challenges "Movius line" theory    2001: Hadrocodium extends the history of mammals by 45 million years    2005: Discovery of a dinosaur devourer Repenomamus giganticus and two new pterosaurs    2009: Key evidences for the origin of birds  Top10  Scientific Discoveries in the World by the New York Times    2007: Largest-known bird-like dinosaur discovered in Inner Mongolia  Top10  Scientific Stories by Nature    2014: Human origins decoded by ancient DNA  Top10  Scientific Achievements by Science    2014: The origin of birds  Top100  Sciences Stories by Discover Magazine    2004: The first pterosaur egg with fetus in the world    2010: Fossilized melanosomes and the colour of Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds    2013: The oldest known primate skeleton and early haplorhine evolution  Top10  News Stories in Basic Research in China    2000: New research progress in paleoorithology    2000: Paleolith from Baise challenges "Movius line" theory    2001: Hadrocodium extends the history of mammals by 45 million years    2005: Discovery of a dinosaur devourer Repenomamus giganticus and two new pterosaurs    2009: Key evidences for the origin of birds  View Large Below are the active research programs and selected achievements in IVPP. The origin and evolution of early vertebrates View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide This research focus on three directions: origin and early evolution of jawed vertebrates and osteichthyans (bony vertebrates), and origin of tetrapods (land vertebrates), aiming to bring about new breakthroughs in the studies of early vertebrates and related biostratigraphy and paleogeographical issues. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide (A) Guiyu oneiros (dreamlike ghost-fish), the oldest known near-complete osteichthyan ever found in the world. [Zhu M, et al. Nature 458:469–474]. (B) Life reconstruction of Megamastax amblyodus, the largest vertebrate known in the Silurian, consuming the galeaspid Dunyu longiforus (Image by Brian Choo) [Choo Brian, et al. Sci Rep. doi:10.1038/srep05242]. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide (A) Guiyu oneiros (dreamlike ghost-fish), the oldest known near-complete osteichthyan ever found in the world. [Zhu M, et al. Nature 458:469–474]. (B) Life reconstruction of Megamastax amblyodus, the largest vertebrate known in the Silurian, consuming the galeaspid Dunyu longiforus (Image by Brian Choo) [Choo Brian, et al. Sci Rep. doi:10.1038/srep05242]. Mesozoic-Cenozoic fishes IVPP researchers have done a great deal of systematic paleontology work in early evolution of lower Actinopterygii and Neopterygii, providing better understanding of the co-evolution relationship between fish and environment, the change of the sea-land pattern, the formation process and mechanism of the trans-Pacific distribution pattern of fish. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide (A) Reconstruction of Potanichthys xingyiensis, the only over-water glider found in Asia and the oldest one lived during the Middle Triassic. [Xu G-H, et al. Proc R Soc B 280: 20122261]. (B) The complete skeleton and reconstruction of Robustichthys luopingensis. This new species is the oldest known ionoscopiform, and provides clues for the early evolution of halecomorph fishes. [Xu G-H, et al. Biol. Lett. 10: 20140204]. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide (A) Reconstruction of Potanichthys xingyiensis, the only over-water glider found in Asia and the oldest one lived during the Middle Triassic. [Xu G-H, et al. Proc R Soc B 280: 20122261]. (B) The complete skeleton and reconstruction of Robustichthys luopingensis. This new species is the oldest known ionoscopiform, and provides clues for the early evolution of halecomorph fishes. [Xu G-H, et al. Biol. Lett. 10: 20140204]. Lower tetrapods View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide The morphology, taxonomy, phylogeny, biostratigraphy, preliminary evolutionary biology and paleontology of the tetrapods are studied. Figure 4. View largeDownload slide (A) Life restoration of Odontochelys semitestacea (translation: half-shelled turtle with teeth). The incomplete shell shows how turtle’ shell were formed. [Li C, et al. Nature: 456, 497–450]. (B) The complete skeleton and reconstruction of Litorosuchus somnii. [Li C, et al. Sci Nat 103: 95]. Figure 4. View largeDownload slide (A) Life restoration of Odontochelys semitestacea (translation: half-shelled turtle with teeth). The incomplete shell shows how turtle’ shell were formed. [Li C, et al. Nature: 456, 497–450]. (B) The complete skeleton and reconstruction of Litorosuchus somnii. [Li C, et al. Sci Nat 103: 95]. Pterosaurs and ancient birds View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide A series of important achievements have been made in the study of morphology, systematics, function and paleontology of various groups of pterosaurs and ancient birds; With the combination of biological mineralogy, biogeochemistry, biomechanics and other studies on egg fossils, the research has made some pioneering progress in the establishment and development of paleoology as a new discipline. Figure 5. View largeDownload slide (A) Life reconstruction of eggs and juvenile and adult Hamipterus tianshanensis. Hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs and embryos were unearthed with well embryos preserved in three dimensions, revealing the life history of the pterosaur. [Wang X et al. Science 358: 1197–1201]. (B) Chiappeavis magnapremaxillo, a new pengornithid enantiornithine, preserves an array of tail feathers forming an aerodynamic surface. [O’Connor JK, et al. Curr Biol 2016: 114–119]. Figure 5. View largeDownload slide (A) Life reconstruction of eggs and juvenile and adult Hamipterus tianshanensis. Hundreds of fossilized pterosaur eggs and embryos were unearthed with well embryos preserved in three dimensions, revealing the life history of the pterosaur. [Wang X et al. Science 358: 1197–1201]. (B) Chiappeavis magnapremaxillo, a new pengornithid enantiornithine, preserves an array of tail feathers forming an aerodynamic surface. [O’Connor JK, et al. Curr Biol 2016: 114–119]. Mesozoic-Paleogene mammals and stratigraphy Based on the fossil materials, IVPP carried out studies on understanding of the composition and characteristics (such as middle ears, teeth) evolution of Mesozoic mammals. Figure 6. View largeDownload slide (A) This picture is the reconstruction of two gliding Euharamiyidan mammal with ear of five auditory bones, which is of great value to the study of the evolution of the mammalian middle ear. [Han G, et al. Nature 551:451–456]. (B) Archicebus achilles, the oldest known primate, is preying an insect in the artistic reconstruction. Discovery of this species illuminated an important event in primate and human evolution. [Ni XJ, et al. Nature 498, 60–64]. Figure 6. View largeDownload slide (A) This picture is the reconstruction of two gliding Euharamiyidan mammal with ear of five auditory bones, which is of great value to the study of the evolution of the mammalian middle ear. [Han G, et al. Nature 551:451–456]. (B) Archicebus achilles, the oldest known primate, is preying an insect in the artistic reconstruction. Discovery of this species illuminated an important event in primate and human evolution. [Ni XJ, et al. Nature 498, 60–64]. Jehol Biota View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide The Jehol Biota is very unique and most active research field. On the basis of extensive field investigations and excavations of vertebrates, this research includes studies of the origin and early evolution of birds, feathers and bird flight, the evolution of dinosaurs, early birds, mammals and amphibians, embryonic development of early birds and pterosaurs, and systematic and comprehensive study of the Jehol Biota. Figure 7. View largeDownload slide (A) A reconstruction of a two-tailed 120-million-year-old Jeholornis, indicating a complicated evolutionary path in the tails of early birds. [O’Connor JK et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110:17404–17408]. (B) A nearly complete skeleton of basal ornithuromorph bird, Bellulia rectusunguis. [Wang M et al. Zool J Linn Soc 176: 207–223]. (C) Repenomamus giganticus, the largest Mesozoic mammal ever found, fed on young dinosaurs [Hu Y et al. Nature 433, 149–152]. (D) Paleoecological reconstruction of Jehol Biota. Figure 7. View largeDownload slide (A) A reconstruction of a two-tailed 120-million-year-old Jeholornis, indicating a complicated evolutionary path in the tails of early birds. [O’Connor JK et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110:17404–17408]. (B) A nearly complete skeleton of basal ornithuromorph bird, Bellulia rectusunguis. [Wang M et al. Zool J Linn Soc 176: 207–223]. (C) Repenomamus giganticus, the largest Mesozoic mammal ever found, fed on young dinosaurs [Hu Y et al. Nature 433, 149–152]. (D) Paleoecological reconstruction of Jehol Biota. Neogene mammals and stratigrapy Based on a comprehensive study of mammals and their environmental backgrounds in North China, the phylogenetic and taxonomic relationships of major mammalian taxa are identified, and the succession sequence, transition process, ecological characteristics and migration pathways of the Neogene mammalian faunas are further recognized. The Neogene biostratigraphic system in China has been adopted as one of the Asian standards. Figure 8. View largeDownload slide (A) The reconstruction of three-toed horse (Hipparion zandaense) from the Zanda Basin. [Deng T et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109: 7374–7378]. (B) 3D reconstruction of cranium fossil of Panthera blytheae, the oldest known pantherine found in the Tibetan Himalaya [Tseng Z et al. Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20132686]. Figure 8. View largeDownload slide (A) The reconstruction of three-toed horse (Hipparion zandaense) from the Zanda Basin. [Deng T et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109: 7374–7378]. (B) 3D reconstruction of cranium fossil of Panthera blytheae, the oldest known pantherine found in the Tibetan Himalaya [Tseng Z et al. Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20132686]. Quaternary mammals and stratigraphy View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide This research focused on mammalian fossils and animal group founded in the Quaternary caves and fracture accumulation of the eastern and southern China, investigated relationship between the ancient mammals (including human) and the ecological environment, and determined the factors for biological diffusion, extinction events and the related background. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Figure 9. View largeDownload slide The orangutan fossil teeth discovered from Sanhe Cave provide new clues for the evolution and taxonomy of the orangutans in southern China [Wang C-B et al. Quatern Int 354: 68–74]. Figure 9. View largeDownload slide The orangutan fossil teeth discovered from Sanhe Cave provide new clues for the evolution and taxonomy of the orangutans in southern China [Wang C-B et al. Quatern Int 354: 68–74]. The origin and evolution of hominid in China A series of studies were carried out on the emergence and evolution of the early modern humans, their emergence time, health status, and related survival adaptation activities. Besides that, new progress has been made in the studies of the large apes and chimps. Figure 10. View largeDownload slide (A) 47 modern human teeth were unearthed in the Fuyan Cave in Daoxian, southern China, providing the earliest evidence of fully modern humans outside Africa and dispersal routes of modern humans. [Liu W et al. Nature 526: 696–699]. (B) The early Late Pleistocene archaic human crania from Xuchang, China reflects Pleistocene human evolutionary patterns in general biology, as well as both regional continuity and interregional population dynamics. [Li Z-Y et al. Science 355: 969–972]. (C) Genome data were achieved from the bone of a 40,000-year-old man (Tianyuan man) in China, and this first ancient human genome data in China region spans the world human genome. [Yang MA et al. Curr Biol 27: 3202–3208]. Figure 10. View largeDownload slide (A) 47 modern human teeth were unearthed in the Fuyan Cave in Daoxian, southern China, providing the earliest evidence of fully modern humans outside Africa and dispersal routes of modern humans. [Liu W et al. Nature 526: 696–699]. (B) The early Late Pleistocene archaic human crania from Xuchang, China reflects Pleistocene human evolutionary patterns in general biology, as well as both regional continuity and interregional population dynamics. [Li Z-Y et al. Science 355: 969–972]. (C) Genome data were achieved from the bone of a 40,000-year-old man (Tianyuan man) in China, and this first ancient human genome data in China region spans the world human genome. [Yang MA et al. Curr Biol 27: 3202–3208]. PUBLIC ACTIVITIES & OUTREACH Paleontology is one of the most attractive research fields that can arouse the public's curiosity to science. IVPP and their researchers make great efforts to the public communication of scientific achievements, and to improve the scientific education of the people. IVPP researchers have published thousands of articles in domestic and foreign popular science periodicals, books, and newspapers, and science monographs and translations, converting the latest research advances, biographic of scientists, documentaries of field work, and preservations of relic sites, etc. Many of these works have won national honors or awards. IVPP publishes 2 popular science magazines, Fossils and Dinosaur, aiming on the children for science education in geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide IVPP has been timely announcing the latest research progress and popular sciences developments through different channels. Activities include making news release to important national and international media, assisting in the production of audio-visual news for TV/radio stations and websites, as well as co-producing 2D, 3D and 4D movies. Some of these programs or movies have won national awards. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide The Paleozoological Museum of China (PMC) was founded by IVPP, and has currently been developing as a national science museum with millions of visitorship. The museum holds over 1000 fossils and collections, exhibiting the fascinating evolution stories from ancient fishes to humans and their artifacts. By welcoming the visitors, organizing the exhibitions in both China and overseas, holding educating and public programs, PMC plays important roles in systematically popularizing knowledge of paleozoology. Figure 11. View largeDownload slide The multimedia and interactive games in “Young Darwin Club” hosted by PMC. Figure 11. View largeDownload slide The multimedia and interactive games in “Young Darwin Club” hosted by PMC. IVPP has been actively involved in fossil-related operation for decades, such as organizing domestic and international exhibition, providing exhibition planning for other museums, reproducing fossil model, contracting for fossil skeletal reconstruction and installation, making reconstructive sculpture, as well as developing paleontological souvenirs. These activities not only boosted the academic collaborations between Chinese and foreign scholars, but also made IVPP and Chinese paleontology better known internationally. Figure 12. View largeDownload slide 2017 Dinosaurs of China exhibit at Nottingham's natural history museum, UK. Figure 12. View largeDownload slide 2017 Dinosaurs of China exhibit at Nottingham's natural history museum, UK. INTERVIEW NSR: Why did you choose IVPP? O’Connor: The IVPP is the best place in the world to work on Mesozoic birds, my research speciality. But more than that, one of the main reasons I’m a paleontologist is because of Chinese fossils. During my freshman year I learned about the amazing discoveries from the Jehol happening in China. That caused me to change the focus of my undergraduate thesis from volcanology to paleontology. I received a research grant and was able to go to China and visit the IVPP and participate in field work conducted in Inner Mongolia. That was in 2003 and I’ve never felt the need to work anywhere else. I finished my PhD in 2009 (spending one year of it at the IVPP) and moved to China to start a postdoc and 8 years later I’m still here with no plans to leave! View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Ni: My background is in biology and I always believe that evolution is the most interesting subject. IVPP is a world leading institute in vertebrate paleontology. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Fu: I chose the IVPP because it helps me to improve my ability as a group leader, and to recruit more capable individuals for my wet and dry lab research. The IVPP infrastructure is supportive of a starting-up independent group. The availability of computer tomography scans or stable isotope analysis generally complements our ancient DNA work in providing extra information about the ancient specimens. Moreover, I am familiar with IVPP, and it has been a personal promise to return to China from abroad to work here. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide NSR: What is your own research interest? Your proudest/greatest achievement thus far? And how did you benefit from IVPP? O’Connor: My research focuses on Mesozoic birds and their evolution from dinosaurs. A large majority of pertinent fossils are in China (e.g., non-avian dinosaurs Microraptor, Anchiornis, and Caudipteryx, and early birds Jeholornis, Confuciusornis, Sapeornis and the oldest enantiornithines and ornithuromorphs) making the IVPP the best place to work. Not only do I benefit from the impressive collection at the IVPP and other institutes with which we have close ties, I benefit from the Chinese governments positive attitude towards science, with no want for funding with which to conduct research. This gives me freedom to work on numerous fossils from many different perspectives without having to worry about the cost of cutting edge techniques like synchotron scanning, and I am free to attend as many conferences as I see fit and visit whatever collections worldwide necessary to compliment the data I collect in China. As far as my proudest achievements, there are several cool things we have discovered that I think fondly on. Myself and colleagues discovered the preservation of ovarian tissues in fossil birds 125–120 Ma. This was my only article published in Nature (Zheng et al., 2014)… but when people congratulate me I always say it's not that I wrote a Nature paper, the fossils presented themselves as a Nature paper. I would never get my research into such high impact journals if I didn’t have the opportunity to work on such amazing fossils. I have also teamed up with developmental biologists to understand the evolutionary development of unusual features we have identified in the fossil record. We have attempted to understand the molecular pathways responsible for extinct feather morphotypes (O’Connor et al., 2012) and for the evolution of sternal morphology within Aves (Zheng et al., 2012; O’Connor et al., 2015). These two projects are important because they take paleontology past the physical hard tissues that we have preserved using biology to gain a greater understanding of the actual mechanisms that produce the observed evolutionary changes. Ni: My own research interest is in the origin and evolution of primates. My recent achievement is the discovery and study on the earliest-known primate skeleton. I feel free to do any kind of research at the IVPP. That is the greatest benefit for me. Fu: My interest is researching about human evolution and genetic history, especially in Eurasia. My achievement is being recognized as a leading researcher in ancient DNA due to a number of significant contributions I have made in the past five years. For example, I was among the first to study archaic humans (Neanderthals and Denisovans) who lived in Eurasia several hundred thousand years prior to the arrival of modern humans. I demonstrated that modern humans already lived in Siberia 45,000 years ago, which is now the earliest acknowledged date for that region. I identified a 40,000 years old individual from Europe who had a very close Neanderthal relative, showing that modern humans not only interacted with Neanderthals in Middle East but also in Europe. Some of my recent work includes generating the ancient genome sequence of the 8,000 to 30,000 years old individuals from Upper Paleolithic Europe, and using this data to elucidate the early population structure, migration, inter-relationships among themselves and to people living in those regions today. IVPP has provided me with resources to pursue my projects and address finer research issues. NSR: What's unique culture for the science research in IVPP? O’Connor: I’m an American where we don’t have any research institutes dedicated to paleontology. In most American universities there are only one to a few paleontologists and the same goes for museums. But at the IVPP we have a huge team of researchers under one roof. If you come across something unusual you can talk to several experts within minutes. We share common issues like taphonomy and stratigraphy and we can work together on these. Ni: People of IVPP usually think they are among the best scientists. Sometime it is quite true! Fu: IVPP is a multidisciplinary institute with an assortment of experts, from those analyze the stable isotope of human skeletons to reveal about prehistoric diet, to the physical anthropologists who can spot the most informative samples. The unique culture here is that it is easier to collaborate on projects, thus enabling one to appreciate human prehistory from different angles. Altogether, these disciplines offer clues into the past, and it is important to keep an open mind. It can be mentioned that the institute administration is friendly and helpful, which allows the scientists to have more time to focus on research. NSR: What is the prospect of the institution in the future? How do you envision its role in global science and for China? O’Connor: I think our future is bright. We have had excellent leadership over the past years; Zhou Zhonghe is a very open minded and presbyopic director. He knows that the IVPP has the potential to be one of the top paleontology institutes in the world and he is doing everything he can to help the IVPP achieve this goal. Every idea I’ve had he has strongly encouraged and I think as the new generation of paleontologists in China start to dominate the IVPP will definitely become one of the top paleontology institutes in the world. Ni: IVPP will continue to be one of the leading institute in vertebrate paleontology. In next five years, IVPP will become one of the major center for multidimensional imaging of fossils and paleontological data analysis in the world. New discoveries from IVPP will continue to deepen our understanding of the nature world. Fu: In my opinion, there is a positive future prospect for the institute. Because it attracts young talented researchers within China and internationally here to do advanced science. There are also established senior researchers, who can supervise and offer critical appraisal about work. There is much creative energy. The role of IVPP can be to provide a prime example of an institute that is doing important and interesting researches in a motivated, open and transparent environment with interdisciplinary collaborations. SELECTED SCIENTIST PROFILES Tao Deng, Deputy Director/Research Professor, Department of Paleomammalogy, IVPP Tao Deng has long-term research interests to focus on the evolution of perissodactyl mammals, the Neogene terrestrial stratigraphy, and the late Cenozoic environmental changes. He and his team discovered vertebrate fossils from the Tibetan Plateau and its surrounding areas to imply a high plateau since the late Early Miocene. Their “Out of Tibet” hypothesis has revealed that the Pliocene mammalian fauna of the Zanda Basin in the Tibetan Plateau showed initiation of cold-adapted lineages that predate Ice Age megafauna, which indicated that the Tibetan Plateau reached its modern elevation. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Xing Gao, Head/Professor, Department of Paleoanthropology, IVPP Xing Gao obtained his Ph.D degree from the University of Arizona in 2000 and was chosen to the One-Hundred Talents Program by CAS. His research focuses on hominid technology and adaptation in Paleolithic age and the origin of modern humans. His group has been engaged in excavating many key archaeological sites and studying the uniqueness of the Chinese Paleolithic cultures and the complexity and variability of human adaptive strategies in Eurasia during Pleistocene. He has become a major advocator for the theory of diversity and regional continuity of human evolution and published extensively on modern human origins in East Asia. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Wu Liu, Research Professor, Department of Paleoanthropology, IVPP Wu Liu has been doing his research in human evolution and related physical anthropology. In the past 10 years, he and his research team conducted a series of field survey, excavations and lab studies with a series of human fossil discovery and research progresses achieved. The discoveries and morphological studies of Late Pleistocene human fossils from the Huanglong Cave and Zhiren Cave put the time of modern human emergence in China as early as about 100 ka. The 47 human teeth with age of 120–80 ka found in the Daoxian are regarded the earliest modern human in East Asia. Based on these findings, they propose South China is the key region of modern human emergence and dispersal. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Xing Xu, Research Professor, IVPP Xing Xu studies the Mesozoic terrestrial faunas of China and other countries from a variety of perspectives. His main research areas are dinosaur taxonomy and the morphological of several dinosaur groups, particularly the theropods. One of Xu's current research projects aims to reconstruct a robust theropod phylogeny and use it to analyze the evolution of important avian structures such as feathers, the wing and beak in a phylogenetic framework, combining both paleontological and neontological data. Xu has conducted fieldwork in the major dinosaur-bearing regions of China, as well as in other countries such as Mongolia and Canada. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Zhonghe Zhou, Director/Research Professor, IVPP Zhonghe Zhou received his PhD degree at the University of Kansas in 1999. His main research interest is on the origin and early evolution of birds, feathers and bird flight. Recently his group has studied various aspects of the biology (e.g., skeletal development, reproductive and digestive systems etc.) of the transition from dinosaurs to birds. He has also been involved in the study of Mesozoic fishes, feathered dinosaurs, pterosaurs, stratigraphy and the evolution of the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota, the relationship between the biological radiation and its geological and paleoenvironmental background in order to better understand the evolution and reconstruction of the Lower Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystem. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Min Zhu, Director/Research Professor of Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of CAS, IVPP Ming Zhu obtained his PhD degree in 1990 from Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, CAS. Through over 100 scientific papers and books, he has made outstanding contributions to the studies on the morphology, histology, phylogeny, biogeography and evolutionary history of many early fish groups. He is recognized for revitalizing the quest for the origin of osteichthyans (bony fishes and tetrapods) from non-osteichthyan gnathostome groups, backed by his field work to unveil many early fossils with exceptional character complement, and unique contributions to the research on the fish-tetrapod transition and the origin of jaw as well. View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide NOTES The pictures and materials are supplied by courtesy of IVPP. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of China Science Publishing & Media Ltd. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com

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National Science ReviewOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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