Scientific prize

Valentin Fischer, winner of the Lamarck Prize of the Royal Academy of Belgium



Valentin Fischer (UR GEOLOGY) received, on 14 December 2019, the Lamarck Prize from the Royal Belgian Academy during the public session of the Classe des Sciences. This five-year prize has been awarded since 1913 to researchers who make a contribution to animal morphology.

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alentin Fischer, Professor of Paleontology in the Department of Geology of the Faculty of Science and Director of EDDy Lab (Evolution & Diversity Dynamics Laboratory / GEOLOGY Research Unit), has just been awarded by the Royal Belgian Academy for his work on plesiosaurs, a group of marine reptiles that belong to the dinosaur class. Recognizable by their long necks - which can sometimes reach several metres - these large vertebrates were the most diverse marine reptiles of all time and disappeared at the end of the Cretaceous (a geological period that extends from about 145 to 66 million years), along with most dinosaurs.

The Royal Academy was chosen for three publications more specifically (1,2 and 3), the result of close collaboration between the University of Liege and the University of Oxford in England. Collectively, these three articles reveal the unexpected morphological plasticity of plesiosaurs. This ability to evolve towards morphologies that are sometimes radically different from each other over time has allowed them to remain the dominant predators of the oceans for more than 100 million years.

Valentin Fischer now heads the EDDy Lab and leads studies with his group on past extinctions, analysing how the morphology of fossil animals and plants fluctuates over time.

  1. Fischer V, Arkhangelsky M, Stenshin I, Uspensky G, Zverkov N, Benson RBJ (2015) Peculiar macrophagous adaptations in a new Cretaceous pliosaurid. Royal Society Open Science 2: 150552.
  2. Fischer V, Benson RBJ, Zverkov NG, Soul, LC, Arkhangelsky M, Lambert O, Stenshin I, Uspensky G & Druckenmiller PS (2017) Plasticity and convergence in the evolution short-necked plesiosaurs. Current Biology 27: 1167-1676.
  3. Fischer V, Benson RBJ, Druckenmiller PS, Ketchum HF & Bardet N (2018) The evolutionary history of polycotylid plesiosaurians. Royal Society Open Science 5: 172177.

The Lamarck Prize

This prize, awarded by the Royal Academy of Belgium, refers to Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, a famous French naturalist (1744-1829). The prize is awarded to the author whose work as a whole has provided "the most new facts and insights into the evolution of the animal kingdom or zoological phylogeny".

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