Matthew F. Bonnan

Professor of Biology

Phone: 609.626.5589
Office: F-134



Since the tender age of five, I have been fascinated by dinosaurs. It was never so much the treasure-hunter aspect of paleontology that attracted me to this science, but rather the thrill of reconstructing long-dead animals and breathing life into old bones. In other words, I am a zoologist and anatomist at heart who happens to be fascinated by dinosaurs. I see dinosaurs as living animals, and I want to reconstruct how these animals moved and behaved when their bones were still pulsing with blood. As time has gone by, I have come to have a

Image of Dr. Matthew Bonnan

deep appreciation and fascination with all the backboned (vertebrate) animals, their collective natural history, and their evolution. I have come to realize that the questions about dinosaurs that I began to pursue in earnest in graduate school have a broader and more powerful context across our vertebrate family tree.

I have helped discover and describe three new species of dinosaurs with colleagues in South Africa, and have overseen nearly fifty undergraduate and graduate student research projects on vertebrate functional morphology and evolution.


Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Northern Illinois University
B.S., Geological Sciences. University of Illinois
      at Chicago

A.S., Earth Sciences, College of DuPage



Dinosaurs, Vertebrate Paleontology, Functional Morphology, Animal Kinematics


Biodiversity & Evolution (BIOL 1400)
Embryology (BIOL 3141)
Comparative Anatomy (BIOL 3150)
Vertebrate Animal Movement (BIOL 3112)
Vertebrate Paleontology (BIOL/GEOL 3242)
Dinosaurs (GNM 1040/2191)


I am interested in three broad but interconnected areas of research: 1) the evolution of dinosaur locomotion, particularly in the giant, long-necked sauropod dinosaurs; 2) the evolution of an erect posture from a sprawled posture in dinosaurs and mammals; and 3) the evolution of pronation and supination in the forelimb of tetrapods. To these ends, I have utilized traditional anatomical approaches as well as state-of-the-art computer modeling to understand and infer how the limbs of both extinct and extant tetrapods have evolved and adapted. Currently, I have begun to utilize XROMM (X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology) to produce three-dimensional animations of small animal bones in vivo. My current research focuses on the three-dimensional kinematics of lizard and mammal forelimbs, as means to "reverse engineer" how early dinosaur and mammal relatives may have moved and stood.

Recent Publication/Work:



Ullmann, P.V., M.F. Bonnan, and K.J. Lacovara. 2017. Characterizing the evolution of wide-gauge features in stylopodial limb elements of titanosauriform sauropods via geometric morphometrics. The Anatomical Record, DOI: 10.1002/ar.23607.

Bonnan, M.F., Shulman, J., Varadharajan, R., Gilbert, C., Wilkes, M., Horner, A., and Brainerd, E.. 2016. Forelimb kinematics of rats using XROMM, with implications or small eutherians and their fossil relatives. PLos ONE 11(3): e0149377. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0149377.

Bonnan, M.F. 2016. The Bare Bones: An Unconventional Evolutionary History of the Skeleton. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
528 pp.

McPhee, B.W., Bonnan, M.F., Yates, A.M., Neveling, J., and Choiniere, J.N. 2015. A new basal sauropod from the pre-Toarcian Jurassic of South Africa: evidence of niche-partitioning at the sauropodomorph-sauropod boundary? Scientific Reports 5: doi:10.1038/srep13224.

Xing, L., Lockely, M.G., Bonnan, M.F., Marty, D., Klein, H., Liu, Y., Zhang, J., Kuang, H., Burns, M.E., and Li, N. 2015. Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous trackways of small-sized sauropods from China: new discoveries, ichnotaxonomy and sauropod manus morphology. Cretaceous Research 56:470-481.

Bonnan, M.F., Wilhite, D.R., Masters, S.L., Yates, A.M., Gardner, C.K., and Aguiar, A. 2013. What Lies Beneath: Sub-Articular Long Bone Shape Scaling in Eutherian Mammals and Saurischian Dinosaurs Suggests Different Locomotor Adaptations for Gigantism. PLoS ONE 8(10): e75216. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075216

VanBuren, C.S. and Bonnan, M.F. 2013. Forearm posture and mobility in quadrupedal dinosaurs. PLoS ONE 8(9): e74842. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074842

Yates, A.M., Wedel, M.J., and Bonnan, M.F. 2012. The early evolution of postcranial skeletal pneumaticity in sauropodomorph dinosaurs. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 57:85-100.

Yates, A.M., Bonnan, M.F., and Neveling, J. 2011. A new basal sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Early Jurassic of South Africa. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 33 (3): 610-625.

Bonnan, M.F., Sandrik, J.L., Nishiwaki, T., Wilhite, D.R., Elsey, R.M., and Vittore, C. 2010. Calcified cartilage shape in archosaur long bones reflects overlying joint shape in stress-bearing elements: Implications for nonavian dinosaur locomotion. The Anatomical Record, 293: 2044-2055.

Reiss, K.L., and Bonnan, M.F. 2010. Ontogenetic scaling of caudal fin shape in Squalus acanthias (Chondrichthyes, Elasmobranchii): a geometric morphometric analysis with implications for caudal fin functional morphology. The Anatomical Record, 293:1184–1191.

Yates, A.M., Bonnan, M.F., Neveling, J., Chinsamy, A., and Blackbeard, M. 2009. A new transitional sauropodomorph from the Early Jurassic of South Africa and the evolution of sauropod feeding and quadrupedalism. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, B: DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1440.

Livingston, V.J., Bonnan, M.F., Elsey, R.M., Sandrik, J.L., and Wilhite, D.R. 2009. Differential limb scaling in the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and its implications for archosaur locomotor evolution. The Anatomical Record, 292: 787-797.

Bonnan, M.F., J.O. Farlow, and S.L. Masters. 2008. Using linear and geometric morphometrics to detect intraspecific variability and sexual dimorphism in femoral shape in Alligator mississippiensis and its implications for sexing fossil archosaurs. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 28(2): 422-431.

Bonnan, M.F. 2007. Linear and geometric morphometric analysis of long bone scaling patterns in Jurassic Neosauropod dinosaurs: their functional and paleobiological implications. The Anatomical Record, 290(9): 1089-1111.

Bonnan, M.F. and P. Senter. 2007. Were the basal sauropodomorph dinosaurs Plateosaurus and Massospondylus habitual quadrupeds?; pp. 139-155 in Barrett, P. M. and D.J. Batten (eds.), Evolution and palaeobiology of early sauropodomorph dinosaurs. Special Papers in Palaeontology, 77.

Bonnan, M.F. and A.M. Yates. 2007. A new description of the forelimb of the basal sauropodomorph Melanorosaurus: implications for the evolution of pronation, manus shape and quadrupedalism in sauropod dinosaurs; pp. 157-168 in Barrett, P. M. and D.J. Batten (eds.), Evolution and palaeobiology of early sauropodomorph dinosaurs. Special Papers in Palaeontology, 77.

Bonnan, M.F. 2006. REVIEW: Chinsamy-Turan: The Microstructure of Dinosaur Bone: Deciphering Biology with Fine-Scale Techniques. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 26(1): 233-234.

Bonnan, M.F. 2005. Pes anatomy in sauropod dinosaurs: implications for functional morphology, evolution, and phylogeny; pp. 346-380 in K. Carpenter and V. Tidwell (eds.), Thunder-Lizards: The Sauropodomorph Dinosaurs. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Bonnan, M.F. and M.J. Wedel. 2004. First occurrence of Brachiosaurus (Dinosauria: Sauropoda) from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of Oklahoma. PaleoBios, 24(2): 13-21.

Bonnan, M.F. 2004. Morphometric analysis of humerus and femur shape in Morrison sauropods: implications for functional morphology and paleobiology. Paleobiology, 30(3): 444-470.

Bonnan, M.F. 2003. The evolution of manus shape in sauropod dinosaurs: implications for functional morphology, forelimb orientation, and sauropod phylogeny. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 23(3): 595-613.

Bonnan, M.F. 2001. The evolution and functional morphology of sauropod dinosaur locomotion. Ph.D. Dissertation, Northern Illinois University, 722 pp. UMI

Bonnan, M. F. 2000. The presence of a calcaneum in a diplodocid sauropod. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 20(2): 317-323.