François Therrien, Ph.D.

Curator of Dinosaur Palaeoecology

By studying the palaeoecology of extinct animals, François Therrien aims to determine how animals behaved when they were alive, and what the world they lived in looked like. For the palaeoecology of extinct animals, François uses two different approaches. The shapes of animals’ bones help him determine the behaviours of extinct animals (e.g., how they hunted, walked, laid their eggs). He also studies the features and chemical composition of ancient soils (called paleosols) to reconstruct the environments and climatic conditions the animals lived in. 

Research Interests

  • The lifestyle and behaviours of extinct animals.
  • The feeding behavior of carnivorous dinosaurs and other extinct predators
  • The bite force of extinct predators.
  • The environments and climate in which extinct animals lived.
  • Faunal and environmental changes that occurred just before the extinction of dinosaurs.

Professional Highlights

  • Discovered the first feathered dinosaurs from North America. 
  • Researched Cryodrakon boreas, a new species of pterosaur that was among the largest and oldest in North America.
  • Published on a theropod site from Mongolia that reveals that colonial nesting behaviour first evolved in the dinosaurian ancestors of birds.
  • Researched Thanatotheristes degrootorum


Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University – School of Medicine, 2004

M.Sc., University of Rhode Island, 1999

B.Sc., Université de Montréal, 1997

Francois Therrien writes in a notebook in the badlands.

Recent Publications

Voris, J.T., Therrien, F., Zelenitsky, D.K., and Brown, C.M. 2020. A new tyrannosaurine (Theropoda:Tyrannosauridae) from the 
Campanian Foremost Formation of Alberta, Canada, provides insight into the evolution and biogeography of tyrannosaurids. 
Cretaceous Research 110:

Hone, D. W. E., Habib, M. B. and Therrien, F. (2019). Cryodrakon boreas, gen. et sp. nov., a Late Cretaceous Canadian azhdarchid pterosaur. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 39(3).

Tanaka, K., Kobayashi, Y., Zelenitsky, D. K., Therrien, F., Lee, Y.-N., Barsbold, R., … Idersaikhan, D. (2019). Exceptional preservation of a Late Cretaceous dinosaur nesting site from Mongolia reveals colonial nesting behavior in a non-avian theropod. Geology47(9), 843–847. doi: 10.1130/g46328.1

Drysdale, E. T., Therrien, F., Zelenitsky, D. K., Weishampel, D. B. and Evans, D. C. (2019) Description of juvenile specimens of Prosaurolophus maximus (Hadrosauridae: Saurolophinae) from the Upper Cretaceous Bearpaw Formation of southern Alberta, Canada, reveals ontogenetic changes in crest morphology. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 38(6).

Tanaka, K., Zelenitsky, D. K., Therrien, F. & Kobayashi, Y. (2018). Nest substrate reflects incubation style in extant archosaurs with implications for dinosaur nesting habits. Scientific Reports, 8. 

Voris, J. T., Zelenitsky, D. K., Therrien, F. and Tanaka, K. (2018). Dinosaur eggshells from the lower Maastrichtian St. Mary River Formation of southern Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 55(3), 272-282. 

Selected Publications

Eberth, D. A., Evans, D. C., Brinkman, D. B., Therrien, F., Tanke, D. H. & Russell, L. S. (2013). Dinosaur biostratigraphy of the Edmonton Group (Upper Cretaceous), Alberta, Canada: evidence for climate influence. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 50(7) 701-726. 

Zelenitsky, D. K., Therrien, F., Erickson, G. M., DeBuhr, C. L., Kobayashi, Y., Eberth, D. A. & Hadfield, F. (2012). Feathered non-avian dinosaurs from North America provide insight into wing origins. Science, 338(6106), 510-514. 

Therrien, F., Zelenitsky, D. K. & Weishampel, D. B. (2009). Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of the Late Cretaceous Sânpetru Formation (Haţeg Basin, Romania) using paleosols and implications for the “disappearance” of dinosaurs. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 272, 37-52.

Zelenitsky, D. K., Therrien, F. & Kobayashi, Y. (2009). Olfactory acuity in theropods: Palaeobiological and evolutionary implications. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 276, 667-673.

Therrien, F., Henderson, D. M. & Ruff, C. B. (2005).  Bite me: Biomechanical models of theropod mandibles and implications for feeding behavior. In K. Carpenter (Ed.), The Carnivorous Dinosaurs (179-237). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 



Phone: 403-820-6217