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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department of Paleobiology

  • Nicholas D. Pyenson
  • Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals
  • Phone:   202-633-1366
  • Fax:   202-786-2832
  • E-mail Address:   pyensonnat SI dot edu
  • Mailing Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    PO Box 37012, MRC 121
    Washington, DC 20013-7012
  • Shipping Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    National Museum of Natural History
    10th & Constitution NW
    Washington, DC 20560-0121


Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 2008
B.S. Emory University, 2002
A.A. Oxford College of Emory University, 2000

Research Interests

I study the paleobiology of marine mammals, and, more broadly, of other marine tetrapods. The evolution of whales, for example, is just one case of several mammalian lineages that have made a series of independent transitions from terrestrial to marine lifestyles at different times during the past 55 million years. Each group of marine mammals has undergone dramatic evolutionary transformations from their terrestrial ancestries, with attendant modifications to multiple anatomical, behavioral and ecological systems. These multiple transitions provide a series of evolutionary comparisons that form the basis for understanding how marine mammals have diversified in the oceans. By extension, I am also interested in the evolutionary and ecological histories of other marine tetrapods -- four-limbed animals that have that made the great transition from life on land to life in the sea. The scope of these investigations primarily focuses on marine rocks from the Cenozoic, including a broad array of field localities in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Also, see my Pyenson Lab blog and my Google Scholar page.