Contact Information

Division of Geography
Division of Geology
P.O. Box 64
(Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2a)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

Department Office
Institute of Seismology

P.O. Box 68
(Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2b)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

phone +358 9 1911 (university exchange)

Mikael Fortelius, Ph.D.



Professor of Evolutionary Palaeontology
–paleontology and paleoecology

Group Leader, Institute of Biotechnology

Department of Geosciences and Geography
P.O.Box 64 (Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2a)
FIN-00014 University of Helsinki

Tel: 09-191 50837

Research interests

  • Evolution of Eurasian land mammals and terrestrial environments during the late Cenozoic (the last 24 million years)
  • Ecometrics of fossil and living mammals
  • Computational approaches to palaeobiology, especially analysis of temporal and spatial patterns
  • Developmental biology, function and evolution of mammalian teeth
  • Scaling problems

Teaching topics

  • Life and earth history
  • Past terrestrial environments and ecosystems
  • Mammalian and human evolution
  • Basics of fossil recognition

Research Statement

I’m a palaeontologist with special interest in plant-eating mammals and their relationship with habitat and climate change. I’m particularly fascinated by mammalian teeth, how they form, how they work, how they wear down, and how their shapes evolve in evolutionary time. My first academic training was in biology, and my teacher in palaeontology was Björn Kurtén, who had a deeply organismic attitude to fossils. I carry with me a conviction that past organisms and ecosystems can only really be understood in relation to the living world. Even more strongly I feel that we cannot hope to understand the living world without sound and detailed knowledge of its stupendously long history. I’m somewhat passionate about resolving fossil data geographically and estimating the population sizes as well as the numbers of extinct species.

I started out as a lonesome specialist on fossil rhinoceroses and pigs, but most of my later research has been collaborative. It currently includes seven main areas: deep time palaeoecology and evolution of mammal communities, especially of Eurasia during the last 24 million years; ecometrics of mammalian teeth, especially palaeodiet reconstruction; multidisciplinary fieldwork, most recently in the late Miocene (12 to 5 million years ago) of North China; exploration of modern computational methods for the analysis of large palaeontological datasets (e.g., temporal seriation and analysis of spatial patterns); palaeoclimate reconstruction and modelling; environmental controls on the spatial distribution of modern species and communities; and scaling questions, especially of mammalian teeth and sense organs. I also participate in work on developmental biology and evolution of mammalian teeth.

Since 1992, I’ve been the coordinator of a public database of Neogene Old World Mammals. I’m also part of the MorphoBrowser project, a public database of 3D tooth shape.

I try to speak intelligently in public about evolution, including human origins, for example at the bi-annual Science Forum in Helsinki and recently on Darwin Day in Oslo. I’ve also participated in the production of educational programmes and documentaries, including Walking with Beasts of the BBC and Discovery Channel.

Among other things I’m also a Member of the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters as well as the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, Chair of the National IUBS Committee of Finland, and Editor (one of many) of Evolutionary Ecology Research.

Curriculum Vitae

Recent publications

List of Selected Publications

Eronen, J.T., Mirzaie Ataabadi, M., Micheels, A., Karme, A., Bernor, R.L. & Fortelius, M., 2009: Distribution history and climatic controls of the Late Miocene Pikermian chronofauna.
–PNAS: Vol. 106, #29, pp. 11867–11871 [PDF] [supporting information]

Liu, L., Eronen, J.T. & Fortelius, M., 2009: Signi?cant mid-latitude aridity in the middle Miocene of East Asia.
–Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology: Vol. 279, pp. 201-206 [PDF]

Liow, L. H., Fortelius, M., Lintulaakso, K., Mannila, H. & Stenseth, N. C., 2009: Lower extinction risk in sleep-or-hide mammals.
–The American Naturalist: vol. 178, #2, pp. 264–272, doi: 10.1086/595756 [PDF]

Heikinheimo, H., Fortelius, M., Eronen, J. & Mannila, H., 2008: Response to Gagné & Proulx: Clusterings should not be compared by visual inspection.
–Journal of Biogeography: doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2008.02054.x [PDF]

Passey, B.H., Ayliffe, L. K., Kaakinen, A., Zhang, Z., Eronen, J. T., Zhu, Y., Zhou, L., Cerling, T. E. & Fortelius, M., 2008: Strengthened East Asian summer monsoons during a period of high-latitude warmth? Isotopic evidence from Mio-Pliocene fossil mammals and soil carbonates from northern China.
–Earth and Planetary Science Letters 277:443-452

Zhu, Y., Zhou, L., Mo, D., Kaakinen, A., Zhang, Z. & Fortelius, M., 2008: A new magnetostratigraphic framework for the late Neogene Hipparion Red Clay in the eastern Loess Plateau of China.
–Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. vol. 268, pp. 47-57 [PDF]

Evans, A. R. & Fortelius, M., 2008: Three-dimensional reconstruction of tooth relationships during carnivoran chewing.
–Palaeontologia Electronica: vol. 11, #2, pp. 10A:11p [PDF]

Liu, L., Zhang, Z., Cui, N., Fortelius, M., 2008: The Dipodidae (Jerboas) from Loc.30 of Baode and their environmental significance.
–Vertbrata PalAsiatica: vol. 46, pp. 124-132 [PDF]

Liow, L. H., Fortelius, M., Bingham, E., Lintulaakso, K., Mannila, H., Flynn, L. & Stenseth, N. C., 2008: Higher originaltion and extinction rates in larger mammals.
–PNAS: vol. 105, #16, pp. 6097-6102 [PDF]

Liow, L. H., Fortelius, M., Bingham, E., Lintulaakso, K., Mannila, H., Flynn, L. & Stenseth, 2008: Sleep or hide, better for survival anytime (reply to Casanovas-Vilar et al.).
–PNAS: vol. 105, #35, E57 [PDF]

DeMiguel, D., Fortelius, M., Azanza, B. & Morales, J., 2008: Ancestral feeding state of ruminants reconsidered: earliest grazing adaptation claims mixed condition for Cervidae.
–BMC Evolutionary Biology: 2008, #8:13 doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-8-13 [PDF]

Bingham, E., Kabán, A. & Fortelius, M., 2007: The aspect Bernoulli model: multiple causes of presences and absences.
–Pattern Analysis & Applications: vol. 12, pp. 55-78 [PDF]

Passey, B., Eronen, J. T., Fortelius, M. & Zhang, Z. 2007: Paleodiets and paleoenvironments of Late Miocene gazelles from North China: evidence from stable carbon isotopes.
–Vertebrata Palasiatica, Vol. 45: 118-127. [PDF]

Heikinheimo, H., M. Fortelius, J. Eronen & H. Mannila. 2007. Biogeography of European land mammals shows environmentally distinct and spatially coherent clusters.
–Journal of Biogeography, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2006.01664.x [PDF]

Evans, A.R., G. P. Wilson, M. Fortelius & J. Jernvall. 2007. High-level similarity of dentitions in carnivorans and rodents.
–Nature 445: 78-81 [PDF]

Fortelius, M., J. T. Eronen, L. Liu, D. Pushkina, A. Tesakov, I. A. Vislobokova & Z. Zhang. 2006. Late Miocene and Pliocene large land mammals and climatic changes in Eurasia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 238:219-227 [PDF]

Fortelius M., Gionis A., Jernvall, J. & Mannila H., 2006: Spectral ordering and biochronology of European fossil mammals.
–Paleobiology: 32(2), pp. 206-214 [PDF]

Fortelius, M. & Zhang, Z. 2006. An Oasis in the Desert? History of Endemism and Climate in the Late Neogene of North China.
–Palaeontographica A.: 277, pp. 131-141

Puolamäki K., Fortelius M. & Mannila H. 2006: Seriation in paleontological data using Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods.
–PLoS Computational Biology: 2:e6 [PDF]

Evans A.R., Hunter J., Fortelius M. & Sanson G.D. 2005. The scaling of tooth sharpness in mammals.
–Annales Zoologici Fennici, 42, 603-613 [PDF]

Fortelius M., Armour-Chelu M., Bernor R. & Fessaha N. 2005: Systematics and paleobiology of the Rudabánya Suidae.
–Palaeontographia Italica, 90:259-278 [PDF]

Jokela, T., J. T. Eronen, A. Kaakinen, L. Liu, B. Passey, Z. Zhang, & M. Fu. 2005: Translation of Otto Zdansky’s ”The Localities of the Hipparion Fauna in Baode County in N. W. Shanxi“ (1923) from the German.
–Paleontologia Electronica 1(8): 3A:10p. [PDF] [M. Fu = Mikael Fortelius]

Liu, L., D. Kostopoulos, & M. Fortelius, 2005. The late Miocene mammal locality of Akkasdagi, Turkey: X. Suidae.
–Geodiversitas 27: 715-732 [PDF]

Pihlström, H. M. Fortelius, S. Hemilä, R. Forsman and T. Reuter. 2005. Scaling of mammalian ethmoid bones can predict olfactory organ size and performance.
–Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 272:957-962 [PDF]

Ukkonen, A., M. Fortelius, & H. Mannila. 2005. Finding partial orders from unordered 0-1 data.
in R. Grossman, R. Bayardo, K. P. Bennett (Eds.): Proceedings of the Eleventh ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, p. 285-293 [PDF]

Fortelius, M., J. T. Eronen, L. Liu, D. Pushkina, A. Tesakov, I. A. Vislobokova, & Z. Zhang. 2004: Continental-scale hypsodonty patterns, climatic palaeobiogeography, and dispersal of Eurasian Neogene large mammal herbivores. Pages 1-11
in J. W. F. Reumer & W. Wessels (eds.), 2004: Distribution and Migration of Tertiary Mammals in Eurasia. A volume in honour of Hans de Bruijn.
–Deinsea, Utrecht, The Netherlands. [PDF]

Jernvall, J. & M. Fortelius. 2004: Maintenance of trophic structure in fossil mammal communities: site occupancy and taxon resilience.
–American Naturalist 164:614-624 [PDF]

Liu, L., D. Kostopolous, & M. Fortelius, 2004: Late Miocene Microstonyx remains (Suidae, Mammalia) from Northern China.
–Geobios 37:49-64 [PDF]

Steininger, F. F., Kovar-Eder, J. & Fortelius, M. (eds.), 2004: The middle Miocene environments and ecosystem dynamics of the Eurasian Neogene (EEDEN).
–Courier Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg 249, 100pp

Fortelius, M., J. Kappelman, S. Sen, & R. L. Bernor (eds.) 2003: Geology and Paleontology of the Miocene Sinap Formation, Turkey.
–Columbia University Press, New York, 409pp

Kaiser, T.M. & Fortelius, M., 2003: Differential mesowear in occluding upper and lower molars – opening mesowear analysis for lower molars and premolars in hypsodont horses.
–Journal of Morphology, 258, 67-83 [PDF]

Jernvall, J. & M. Fortelius, 2002: Common mammals drive the evolutionary increase of hypsodonty in the Neogene.
–Nature 417: 538-540 [PDF]

Fortelius, M., J. T. Eronen, J. Jernvall, L. Liu, D. Pushkina, J. Rinne, A. Tesakov, I. A. Vislobokova, Z. Zhang, & L. Zhou, 2002: Fossil Mammals Resolve Regional Patterns of Eurasian Climate Change During 20 Million Years.
–Evolutionary Ecology Research 4: 1005-1016 [PDF]

Liu, L., M. Fortelius & M. Pickford. 2002: New fossil Suidae from Shanwang, Shandong, China.
–Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22: 152-163

Zhang, Z., A. W. Gentry, A. Kaakinen, L. Liu, J. P. Lunkka, Z. Qiu, S. Sen, R. S. Scott, L. Werdelin, S. Zheng, & M. Fortelius. 2002: Land mammal faunal sequence of the late Miocene of China: New evidence from Lantian, Shaanxi Province.
–Vertebrata PalAsiatica 40: 165-176 [PDF]

Fortelius, M. & A. Hokkanen. 2001: The trophic context of hominoid occurrence in the later Miocene of western Eurasia – a primate-free view. pp. 19-47
in L. de Bonis, G. Koufos & P. Andrews (eds.), 2001: Phylogeny of the Neogene Hominoid Primates of Eurasia.
–Cambridge University Press, 2001,

Fortelius, M. & Solounias, N. 2000. Functional characterization of ungulate molars using the abrasion-attrition wear gradient: a new method for reconstructing paleodiets.
–Am. Mus. Novitates. 3301:1-36 [PDF]

Jernvall, J., J. P. Hunter & M. Fortelius. 2000: Trends in the evolution of molar crown types in ungulate mammals: evidence from the northern hemisphere. Pp. 269-281
in Teaford, M., Smith, M. M. & Ferguson, M. W. J. (eds), 2000: Development, Function and Evolution of Teeth.
–Cambridge University Press, 2000,

The List of Selected Publications