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Biography: Natalia Rybczynski

Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature


Natalia Rybczynski

Research Scientist, Earth Sciences
Research Services
Tel.: 613.566.2462
Fax: 613.364.4027
Email: nrybczynski@mus-nature.ca


  • Ph.D., Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University, USA., 2003.
  • M.Sc., Zoology, University of Toronto, Canada, 1996.
  • B.Sc. Highest Honours, Integrated Science Studies, Carleton University, Canada, 1994.


Research addresses three major conceptual areas:

Alex Tirabasso, Marissa Gilbert © Canadian Museum of Nature


3D virtual model of Miocene fossil pinniped from Haughton Crater, Devon Island (Nunavut)

  • (1) evolutionary functional morphology associated with major evolutionary transitions,
  • (2) relationships between morphological and behavioural evolution,
  • (3) relationship between climate and evolution at Polar latitudes.

Investigative approaches vary and include field work, biomechanics, anatomical dissection, paleontology, animation modeling, behavioral observation, and phylogenetics.
Note to prospective students: Although vertebrates are a major focus of this research, research on other organisms that falls within these conceptual areas is welcome.


Some current project topics:

  • Ecosystems, landscapes and climate change in the Neogene High Arctic.
  • Functional morphology and evolution of mammals adapted to life in water (e.g., beavers, otters, seals).
  • Feeding kinematics in herbivorous dinosaurs and early synapsids.

Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature


Collecting fossil leaves on Ellesmere Island

Professional Services

  • Adjunct research professor in:
    Biology, Carleton University http://www.carleton.ca/biology/
    Earth Sciences, Carleton University http://www.earthsci.carleton.ca/
  • Scientific society affiliations:
    Canadian Society of Zoologists, 2007-
    Sigma Xi, 1998-
    Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, 1995-
    Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, 1995-


Current students
Thomas Cullen
M.Sc. program, Earth Sciences
Topic: Comparative description of a female Enaliarctos emlongi (Carnivora, Pinnipedimorpha) from the Miocene of western Oregon and the evolution of sexual dimorphism within Pinnipedia.

Danielle Fraser, https://sites.google.com/site/danielleleefraser/
PhD program, Biology
Topic : The response of ungulate communities to Miocene climate change.

Travis Mitchell
M.Sc. program, Earth Sciences
Topic: The sedimentology and ecological history of the Pliocene aged Beaver Pond Site (Ellesmere Island, Nunavut).

Research group alumni and projects
Danielle Dionne
Honours thesis, Earth Sciences
Title: Using eigenshape analysis of the lower cheek teeth in order to investigate the taxonomy of Pliocene fossil rabbits.

Joanne Northover
M.Sc., Earth Sciences
Title: Skeletal morphology and evidence for swimming in a fossil stem pinniped, Puijila darwini, from the Canadian high Arctic.

Simon Mattioli
Honours thesis, Biology
Title: Investigation of forelimb musculature and skeletal morphology in the river otter.

Merissa Thompson
Honours thesis, Biology
Title: Functional morphology and evolution of the tail in North American Porcupine.

Travis Mitchell
Honours thesis, Earth Sciences
Title: A new approach for the taxonomic classification of fossil rabbits (Genus: Hypolagus) using Eigenshape analysis.

Felicia St-Louis
Honours thesis, Biology
Title: Comparative biomechanics of the beaver tail (Castor Canadensis).

Michael Arsenault
Research Assistant
Title: Kinematics of beaver swimming

Karyne Bellehumeur, B.Sc.H.
Research Assistant
Title : Kinematics of beaver swimming

Derek Boyd
Independent study, Integrated Science Studies (INSC 3909)
Title: Material properties of biocomposite in beaver tail

Kristin Clark
Independent study, Environmental Studies (ENST 4907)
Title: How beavers modify ecosystems

Dmitri Ponomarenko, M.Sc.
M.Sc., Earth Sciences
Title: Burrow morphology, burrow preservation, and evidence of digging behaviour in ground-dwelling squirrels (Sciuridae)
Currently: Ph.D. program, Russia

Elizabeth Ross, B.Sc.H.
Honours thesis, Earth Sciences
Title: A geometric morphometric reevaluation of the validity of the genus Sinocastor (Rodentia: Castoridae)

Kristin, I. Hynes, B.Sc.H.
Honours thesis, Earth Sciences
Title: The evolution of the grooming claw in Castoridae
Currently: finishing M.Sc. of Entomology at University of Manitoba

Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature


View of Haughton Crater, Devon Island (Nunavut)


Biology, Carleton University

Earth Sciences, Carleton University

Puijila darwini: a prehistoric walking seal


  • Csank, A.Z., W.P. Patterson, B.M. Eglington, N. Rybczynski, & J.F. Basinger. 2011.  Climate variability in the Early Pliocene Arctic: Annually resolved evidence from stable isotope values of sub-fossil wood, Ellesmere Island, Canada.  Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 308: 339-349.
  • Csank, A.Z. A. Tripati, W.P. Patterson, R.A. Eagle, N. Rybczynski, A.P. Ballantyne & J. Eiler. 2011. Estimates of Arctic land surface temperatures during the early Pliocene from two novel proxies.  Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 304(3-4): 291-299.
  • Fontanella JE, Fish FE, Rybczynski N, Nweeia M. Ketten DR., 2010. Three-dimenstional geometry of the narwhal (Monodon monoceros) flukes in relation to hydrodynamics. Marine Mammal Science. 27(4): 889-898.
  • Rybczynski N, Ross EM, Samuels JX, Korth WW. 2010. Re-evaluation of Sinocastor (Rodentia: Castoridae) with implications on the origin of modern beavers. PLoS ONE. 5(11): e13990. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013990.
  • Ballantyne, A.P., D.R. Greenwood, J.S. Sinninghe Damsté, A.Z. Csank, J.J. Eberle and N. Rybczynski. 2010. Significantly warmer Arctic surface temperatures during the Pliocene indicated by multiple independent proxies. Geology. 38(7): 603-606.
  • Rybczynski, N., M.R. Dawson and R.H. Tedford. 2009. A semi-aquatic Arctic mammalian carnivore from the Miocene Epoch and origin of Pinnipedia. Nature. 458: 1021-1024.
  • Murray, A.M., Cumbaa, S.L., Harington, C.R., Smith, G.R. and Rybczynski, N. (2009). Early Pliocene Fish Remains from Arctic Canada Support a Pre-Pleistocene Dispersal of Percids (Teleostei: Perciformes). Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 46: 557-570.
  • Rybczynski, N. (2008). Woodcutting Behavior in Beavers (Castoridae, Rodentia): Estimating Ecological Performance in a Modern and a Fossil Taxon. Palaeobiology 34(3): 389-402.
  • Rybczynski, N., Tirabasso, A., Cuthbertson, R. and Holliday, C. (2008). A 3D Animation Model of Edmontosaurus (Hadrosauridae) Skull for Testing Chewing Hypotheses. Paleontologica Electronica 11(2):1-14. (Web site consulted November 19, 2008)
  • Rybczynski, N. (2007). Castorid Phylogenetics: Implications for the Evolution of Swimming and Tree Exploitation in Beavers. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 14: 1-35.
  • Vavrek, M.J., Larsson, H.C.E., Rybczynski, N. (2007). A Late Triassic Flora from East-Central Axel-Heiberg Island, Nunavut, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 44: 1653-1659.
  • Ballantyne, A.P., Rybczynski, N. Baker, P. Harington, C.R., White, D. (2006). Pliocene Arctic Temperature Constraints from the Growth Rings and Isotopic Composition of Fossil Larch Wood. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 242 (3,4): 188-200.
  • Korth, W.W. and Rybczynski, N. (2003). A New Unusual Castorid (Rodentia) from the Earliest Miocene of Nebraska. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 23(3): 667-675.
  • Rybczynski, N. and Reisz, R.R. (2001). Earliest Evidence for Efficient Oral Processing in a Terrestrial Herbivore. Nature 411: 684-687.
  • Rybczynski, N. and Vickaryous, M.K. (2001). Evidence of Complex Jaw Movement in the Late Cretaceous Ankylosaurid, Euoplocephalus tutus (Dinosauria: Thyreophora) pp. 299-317 In Carpenter, K. (ed.), The Armored Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
  • Modesto, S. and Rybczynski, N. (2000). A Review of the Late Permian Amniote Faunas of Russia. pp. 17-33 In Benton, M.J., Kurochkin, E.N., Novikov, I.V., Shishkin, M.A. and Unwin, S.M. (eds), The Age of Dinosaurs in Russia and Mongolia: Fossil vertebrates from the Permian and Mesozoic of the former Soviet Union and Mongolia. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Rybczynski, N. (2000). Cranial Anatomy and Phylogenetic Position of the Basal Anomodont (Therapsida), Suminia getmanovi. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 130 (3): 329-373.