Skip Navigation

Richard L. Cifelli

Skip Side Navigation

Richard L. Cifelli

Presidential Professor of Biology
Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology

Ph.D., Columbia University
M.Phil., Columbia University
A.M., University of Chicago
A.B., Colby College
405-325-6202 (Fax)

web page


I am primarily a vertebrate paleontologist. My main research interest is in the evolution of mammals, with particular emphasis on systematics and functional morphology. In recent years, I have focused attention mainly on early mammals (with most emphasis placed on Cretaceous varieties from North America). To this end, I have maintained an active collecting program, and conduct mainly specimen-based research, in which both undergraduate and graduate students routinely participate. That same collecting program has yielded many fossils of other vertebrate groups; graduate students often work on these “other” groups, particularly dinosaurs, though there are opportunities for graduate research on Cenozoic or living mammals, as well as other taxa well represented in the museum collection, not to mention other aspects of vertebrate paleobiology. In addition to supporting faculty in the Department of Biology, museum staff (Dr. Nicholas Czaplewski, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology) and faculty from the School of Geology & Geophysics (Dr. Steven Westrop, Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology; Dr. Richard Lupia, Curator of Paleobotany) often serve as committee members for graduate students specializing in vertebrate paleontology.


  • Cifelli, R.L. and Fostowicz-Frelik, L., eds. 2016. Legacy of the Gobi Desert: Papers in Memory of Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska. Institute of Paleobiology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw.
  • Cifelli, R.L. 2015. Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska (1925-2015): discoverer of early mammals. Nature 520: 158 doi:10.1038/520158a.
  • Cifelli, R.L. and Davis, B.M. 2015. Tribosphenic mammals from the Lower Cretaceous Cloverly Formation of Montana and Wyoming. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology e920848. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2014.920848: 1-18.
  • Romano, M. and Cifelli, R.L. 2015. 100 years of continental drift: one hundred years ago, Alfred Wegener laid the foundations for the theory of plate tectonics. Science 350 (6263): 915-916.
  • Cifelli, R.L., Davis, B.M., and Sames, B. 2014. Earliest Cretaceous mammals from the western United States. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 59 (1): 31-52.

  • Cifelli, R.L. and Davis, B.M. 2013. Jurassic fossils and mammalian antiquity. Nature 500: 160-161.
  • Davis, B.M. and Cifelli, R.L. 2011. Reappraisal of the tribosphenidan mammals from the Trinity Group (Aptian-Albian) of Texas and Oklahoma. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 56: 441-462.
  • Cifelli, R.L. 2004. Marsupial mammals from the Albian-Cenomanian (Early-Late Cretaceous) boundary, Utah. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 285: 62-79.
  • Cifelli, R.L. and Davis, B.M. 2003. Marsupial origins. Science 302: 1899-1900.
  • Cifelli, R.L. 1999. Tribosphenic mammal from the North American Early Cretaceous. Nature 401: 363-366.

Awards and Honors

  • Joseph T. Gregory Award, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Awarded for lifetime achievement in service to the professional community. (2016)
  • Director’s Research Award for Outstanding and Sustained Research Productivity, Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (2000)
  • OU Regents’ Award for Superior Accomplishment in Research and Creative Activity (1995)