Professor Sarah Gabbott

Sarah GabbottProfessor of Palaeobiology

Course Director for Geology with Palaeobiology and Geology with Geography

Direct contact:
: 0116 252 3636

Research Group: Palaeobiology, Palaeoenvironments and Palaeoclimates

Research Interests

My research broadly focusses on exceptionally preserved fossils especially those of entirely soft bodied animals. Remarkably in the fossil record, there are deposits (Lagerstȁtten) which preserve the organic and easily decayed anatomical features of animals such as the muscles, gills, organs and skin. These fossils provide palaeontologists with an unprecedented view of the evolution, ecology and biology of life that is now extinct. However, to extract the most accurate and useful information from these fossils we must take a holistic approach to investigating them. We need to determine the environment in which they lived, how much decay occurred before they were transformed in to fossils and the processes of their preservation. Untimely, I am trying to reconstruct ancient life through the window of variously decomposed remains preserved in different sedimentary settings, and my goal is to determine: i. to what extent the anatomy of living animals is represented in the fossil record, so that I can ii. understand the tempo and sequence of evolution of fossil organisms and also iii. determine to what extent the living community and ecology is captured in different Lagerstȁtten.

Four recent publications

  • Xianguang Hou, Williams, M., Siveter, D.J., Siveter, D.J., Gabbott, S.E., Holwell, D. and Harvey, T.H.P. (2014). A chancelloriid-like metazoan from the early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte, China. Scientific Reports, 4, 7340. doi:10.1038/srep07340
  • Murdock, D.J.E., Gabbott, S.E., Mayer G. and Purnell, M.A. (2014). Decay of velvet worms (Onychophora), and bias in the fossil record of lobopodians. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 14, 222. doi:10.1186/s12862-014-0222-z
  • Sansom, R.S.; Gabbott, S.E. and Purnell, M.A. (2013). Unusual anal fin in a Devonian jawless vertebrate reveals complex origins of paired appendages. Biology Letters, doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0002
  • Sansom, R.S., Gabbott, S. E., & Purnell, M. A. (2010). Non-random decay of chordate characters causes bias in fossil interpretation. Nature, 463, 797-800. doi:10.1038/nature08745


  • GL1024 Planetary Geology
  • GL2038 Major Events in the History of Life
  • GL2046 Exceptional Preservation

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