Mhairi Reid

Academic Profile

After a few years of venturing into advertising, I decided that I loved the natural world more than the world of logos. I completed my BSc in Geology, Oceanography and Climatology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2013, where I went on to do a BSc Honours in Geology. During this time, I developed a keen interest in sedimentology and palaeontology, leading to my MSc research in taphonomy – the study of how organisms decay and become fossilised. In my research I utilised micro-CT scanning to digitally ‘stitch’ together an excavated fossil bed from the Devonian Bokkeveld Group of South Africa in order to acquire quantifiable taphonomic data on this echinoderm-rich obrution deposit. The scans revealed an assemblage of thousands of ophiuroids (brittle stars) that had been smothered during a high-energy storm event.

I have done extensive fieldwork throughout my years at UCT, not only for my own MSc but also participating in many field-based studies across South Africa on rocks from Neoproterozic to Mesozoic in age. Before joining Oxford, I worked on various projects such as dinosaur footprints from Lesotho.

Current Research

Telluraves or “land birds” are a speciose extant group of predominantly arboreal birds. Over the last 20 years, fossil discoveries and molecular clock analyses have provided strong evidence that the earliest known stem-group representatives of many extant avian orders appeared in the Paleogene, a crucial time period for understanding the history of diversification of birds. The aim of my research is to establish a new and comprehensive phylogeny on a revised dataset in order to resolve phylogenetic issues of early telluravians, and to study the patterns of their phenotypic evolution in phylogenetic context. This will be achieved using high-resolution, three-dimensional anatomical datasets from micro-CT scans of key Telluraves fossils in order to describe the anatomy of new and previously studied fossils. Finally, I hope to understand the rapidity of the early Cenozoic bird radiation and its response to climatic variation.




Reid, M., Taylor, W., Brett, C.E., Hunter, A. (2019) Taphonomy and paleoecology of an ophiuroid-stylophoran obrution deposit from the lower Devonian Bokkeveld Group, South Africa. PALAIOS.

Reid, M., Bordy E.M., Taylor, W., le Roux, S.A, du Plessis, A. (2019) Micro X-ray computed tomography dataset of fossil echinoderms in an ancient obrution bed: a robust method for taphonomic and paleoecologic analyses. GigaScience.

Reid, M., Hunter, A. W., Taylor, W., Bordy E. (2019) A new genus of Protasteridae from the Lower Devonian Bokkeveld Group of South Africa. Palaeontologia Africana

Browning C., Reid, M. (2017) Lithostratigraphy of the Kweekvlei Formation (Witteberg Group), South Africa. South African Journal of Geology. South African Journal of Geology; 120 (3): 421–432. doi:

Sciscio, L., Bordy, E.M., Reid, M., Abrahams, M. (2016) Sedimentology and ichnology of the Mafube dinosaur track site (Lower Jurassic, eastern Free State, South Africa): a report on footprint preservation and palaeoenvironment. Peer J: doi: 10.7717/peerj.2285

Reid. M., Bordy, E.M., Wendy, T. (2015) Taphonomy and sedimentology of an echinoderm obrution bed in the Lower Devonian Voorstehoek Formation (Bokkeveld Group, Cape Supergroup) of South Africa. Journal of African Earth Sciences. doi:10.1016/j.jafrearsci.2015.04.009.

Contact information

Department of Earth Sciences

orchid ID - 0000-0001-5169-2180

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