Strategic Professor in Palaeontology, Flinders University

Prof John Long researches the early evolution of vertebrates in order to unravel the stages of how the modern vertebrate body plan was assembled.

Many parts of our human anatomy had their origins back in the Early Palaeozoic (540-350 million years ago). This was when jaws, teeth, paired limbs, ossified brain-cases, intromittent genital organs, chambered hearts and paired lungs all appeared in early fishes.

He has conducted field work collecting fossils throughout Australia, SE Asia, South Africa, China and Antarctica.

Prof Long has served as the Vice President of Research and Collections at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (2009-2012), Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria (2004-2009) and as Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Western Australian Museum (1989-2004). He is currently the President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2014-2016) and the Vice President of the Royal Society of South Australia (2014-2016).

For the past 30 years Prof Long has been collecting fossils from the Gogo sites in northern Western Australia, whose perfectly preserved 3-D fish fossils have yielded many significant discoveries, including mineralised soft tissues, the origins of complex sexual reproduction in vertebrates.

His discoveries include the State Fossil Emblem of Western Australia (Mcnamaraspis), the mother fish with the world's oldest vertebrate embryo (Materpiscis), a tetrapod-like fish with large holes on top of its head for air-breathing (Gogonasus), and the oldest evidence for copulation in vertebrates (Microbrachius).

He has also worked on fossil heritage issues, working with Government agencies over the years to help solve fossil-related crime and repatriate fossils smuggled out of other countries including China and Argentina.

Prof Long is an author of many adult and children's books, including non-fiction and fiction, covering topics as diverse as evolution, dinosaurs, fossil fishes, prehistoric mammals, travels in Antarctica, the illegal fossil trade, climate change and the birth of human civilisation.

His most recent books include " Dawn of the Deed -The Prehistoric Origins of Sex" (University of Chicago Press, 2012) which gives an account of the Gogo discoveries and explores their relevance and other fossils showing evidence for sexual behaviour for understanding sex in an evolutionary context, and "Frozen in Time - Prehistoric Life in Antarctica" (with Jeffrey Stilwell, CSIRO Publishing 2011).


  • –present
    Strategic Professor in Palaeontology, Flinders University
  • 2009–2012
    Vice President, Research & Collections, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, CA, USA
  • 2004–2009
    Head of Sciences, Museum Victoria
  • 1989–2004
    Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology, The Western Australian Museum
  • 1988–1989
    ARC Research Fellow, University of Tasmania
  • 1986–1987
    QEII Award , The University of Western Australia
  • 1984–1985
    Research Fellow, The Australian National University


  • 1984 
    Monash University, Ph.D
  • 1981 
    Monash University, B.Sc Hons


2001 Eureka Prize for Promotion of Science; 2008 Australasian Science Prize; 2011, short-listed for the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research; 2011 Royal Society of Victoria Research Medal