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Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Division of Birds

Labrador Duck
Labrador Duck
Christina Gebhard © Smithsonian Institution
bar Daniel B. Thomas
    Daniel B. Thomas
    Post-doctoral Fellow

  • Phone: (202) 633-0797
  • Fax: (202) 633-8084
  • E-mail:

  • Mailing Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    Division of Birds
    PO Box 37012, MRC 116
    Washington, DC 20013-7012

  • Shipping Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    Division of Birds
    1000 Constitution Ave, NW
    Washington, DC 20004

Related Links

Illuminating Fossils (Daniel's Blog and webpage)


B.Sc. (Hons.) University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand (2005)
Ph.D. University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand (2009

Research Interests

I enjoy reconstructing the lives of extinct animals using chemical data. Many methods are used to study the chemistry of fossils, and my current work uses Raman Spectroscopy. Raman spectroscopy is non-destructive under ideal conditions and can provide information about a range of biological processes. I am using this technique to investigate pigmentation in fossil feathers, and to elucidate the diets of fossil seabirds. Reconstructing the lives of extinct animals relies on living species for guidance; I am also interested in the chemistry of modern feathers, and chemical indicators for modern seabird diet.

Selected Publications

Fordyce, R.E. & Thomas, D.B., 2011. Kaiika maxwelli, a new Early Eocene stem-penguin (Sphenisciformes, Aves) from New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, 54: 43-51.

Ksepka, D.T. & Thomas, D.B., 2011. Multiple Cenozoic invasions of Africa by penguins (Aves, Sphenisciformes). Proceedings of the Royals Society B, 279: 1027-1032.

Thomas, D.B. & Fordyce, R.E., 2011. Biological plasticity in penguin heat retention structures. The Anatomical Record, 295: 249-256.

Thomas, D.B., Ksepka, D.T. & Fordyce, R.E., 2011. Penguin heat-retention structures evolved in a greenhouse Earth. Biology Letters, 7: 461-464

Thomas, D.B., McGoverin, C.M., Fordyce, R.E., Frew, R.D. & Gordon, K.C., 2011. Raman spectroscopy of fossil bioapatite — A proxy for diagenetic alteration of the oxygen isotope composition. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 310: 62-70.

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