Kenneth Lacovara, PhD

Professor, Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science; Paleontology Fellow, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Kenneth Lacovara, PhD

Office: PISB 322
Phone: 215.895.6456
Lab: PISB 504
Lab Phone: 215.895.6671


Mesozoic paleoecosystems (Egypt, Patagonia, China, Montana, New Jersey); Evolution and paleoecology of sauropod dinosaurs; Preservation and analysis of ancient biomolecules; The natural history and paleoecology of mangrove ecosystems; Coastal processes; the evolution of coasts with sea-level change.


  • PhD, Geology, University of Delaware
  • MA, Coastal Geomorphology, University of Maryland
  • BA, Physical Geography, Rowan University

Research Interests

I focus on Mesozoic Era paleoenvironments, containing the remains of dinosaurs and other vertebrates. The study of ancient biomes, particularly those of the Cretaceous Period, relates to our emerging understanding of the global response to human-induced climate change. During the past 250 million years, the world was never hotter, sea level was never higher, and atmospheric CO2 was never more abundant than during the Cretaceous Period. The rocks and fossils of this period record these environmental extremes and the resulting biotic response. By understanding paleoecological change during previous episodes of global warming, we enhance our ability to understand current changes related to the ongoing climate crisis.

Another facet of my research involves the discovery and characterization of extinct forms of life. The vast majority of species that have ever lived are extinct and paleontologists thus far have discovered only a tiny fraction of these. With this in mind, a component of my fieldwork is exploratory, in pursuit of contributions to the basic characterization of life on Earth. I have co-authored descriptions of two new dinosaurs (Paralititan and Suzhousaurus), a teleost fish (Bawitius bartheli), a necrocarcinid crab, numerous indeterminate species, and several paratypes.

During five expeditions to southern-most South America, my students and I excavated over 16-tons of fossilized remains from Late Cretaceous deposits. Most of this material pertains to extremely large titanosaurian dinosaurs, representing one or more new species. One new holotype under description represents the most complete skeleton known for a dinosaur in the top class of mass. The analysis of this specimen provides an unprecedented opportunity to study the anatomy, biomechanics, and evolution of some of the largest land creatures ever.

I am also a member of the Bahariya Dinosaur Project, based in the Egyptian Sahara, and collaborate with Hai Lu You, PhD (Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences) and Matthew Lamanna, PhD (Carnegie Museum of Natural History) on the evolution of Cretaceous ornithurine birds from the middle Cretaceous of China. In the laboratory, my students and I have isolated endogenous biomolecules from Paleogene- and Cretaceous-age fossils and are developing geochemical model pathways for the preservation of ancient tissues. Locally, my students and I study the Cretaceous fauna of southern New Jersey. Our recently excavated 65 million year old New Jersey crocodilian, Thoracosaurus neocesariensis, is currently on display in the lobby of Stratton Hall at 32nd & Chestnut streets.

Selected Publications

  • Lacovara, K.J., L.M. Ibiricu, M.C. Lamanna, J.C. Poole, E.R. Schroeter, P.V. Ullmann, K.K. Voegele, Z.M. Boles, V.M. Egerton, J.D. Harris, R.D. Martínez, and F.E. Novas, A Gigantic, Exceptionally Complete Titanosaurian Sauropod Dinosaur from Southern Patagonia, Argentina, Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing), 4:6196 | DOI:10.1038/srep06196
  • Schroeter, E.R., V.M. Egerton, L.M. Ibiricu, and K.J. Lacovara, 2014, Lamniform Shark Teeth from the Late Cretaceous of Southernmost South America (Santa Cruz Province, Argentina). PLoS ONE 9(8): e104800. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0104800
  • Moyer, A.E., W. Zheng, E.A. Johnson, M.C. Lamanna, D. Li, K.J. Lacovara, M.H. Schweitzer, 2014, Melanosomes or Microbes: Testing an Alternative Hypothesis for the Origin of Microbodies in Fossil Feathers, Science Reports (Nature Publishing), 4:4233, DOI:10.1038/srep04233
  • Coughenour, C.L., A.W. Archer, and K.J. Lacovara, 2013, Calculating Earth-Moon system parameters from sub-yearly tidal deposit records: An example from the Carboniferous Tradewater Formation, Sedimentology, v. 295, p. 67-76
  • Ibiricu, L.M. M.C. Lamanna, and K.J. Lacovara, 2013, The influence of caudofemoral musculature on the titanosaurian (Saurischia: Sauropoda) tail skeleton: morphological and phylogenetic implications, Historical Biology, p. 1-18
  • Schein, J.P., D.C. Parris, J.C. Poole, and K.J. Lacovara, 2013, A Nearly Complete Skull of Enchodus ferox (Actinopterygii, Aulopiformes) from the Upper Cretaceous Ripley Formation of Lowndes County, Alabama, Bulletin of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, Bulletin 31, Vol. 1, p. 78-83
  • Edgerton, V.E., F.E Novas, P. Dodson, and K.J. Lacovara, 2013, The first record of a neonatal ornithopod dinosaur from Gondwana, Gondwana Research, v. 23, Issue 1, January 2013, p. 268–271
  • Ibiricu, L.M., R.D. Martinez, M.C. Lamanna, G.A. Casal, M. Luna, J.D. Harris, and K.J. Lacovara, 2012, The southernmost records of Rebbachisauridae (Sauropoda: Diplodocoidea), from the early Late Cretaceous of central Patagonia, Cretaceous Research, v. 34, p. 220-232
  • Grandstaff, B.S., J.B. Smith, M. C. Lamanna, K.J. Lacovara, M.S. Abdel-Ghani, 2012, Bawitius gen. nov., a giant polypterid (Osteichthyes: Actinopterygii) from the Upper Cretaceous Bahariya Formation of Egypt, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, v. 31 (1), p. 17-36
  • Ibiricu, L.M., R.D. Martinez, M.C. Lamanna, K.J. Lacovara, 2010, Ornithopoda remains from the Late Cretaceous Bajo Barreal Formation (Lake Colhue Huapi), Chubut Province, Argentina, Annals of Carnegie Museum, v. 79, p. 29-40.
  • Coughenour, C.L., A.W. Archer, and K.J. Lacovara, 2009, Tides, tidalites, and secular changes in the Earth-Moon system, Earth-Science Reviews, v. 97, p. 96-116.
  • Li, D., C. Peng, H. You, M. C. Lamanna, J. D. Harris, K. J. Lacovara, and J. Zhang, 2007, A Large Therizinosauroid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Early Cretaceous of Northwestern China. ACTA Geologica Sinica, v. 81, p. 539-549.
  • Lacovara, K.J. and W.B. Gallagher, 2006, From the Cretaceous to the beach: The coastal deposits of southern New Jersey: Geological Society of America Field Trip Guide for Annual Meeting, 2006, Philadelphia, Science Notes 18, New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ, 32 p.
  • You, H., M.C. Lamanna, J.D. Harris, L.M. Chiappe, J. O’Connor, S. Ji, J. Lu, C. Yuan, D. Li, X. Zhang, K.J. Lacovara, P. Dodson, Q. Ji, 2006, A Nearly Modern Amphibious Bird from the Early Cretaceous of Northwestern China, Science, v. 312, p. 1640-1643.
  • Smith, J.B., M.C. Lamanna, H. Mayr, and, K.J. Lacovara, 2006, New information regarding the holotype of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus Stromer, 1915, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, v. 80, p. 400-406. DOI: 10.1666/0022-3360
  • Harris, J. D. and K. J. Lacovara, 2004, Enigmatic fossil footprints from the Sundance Formation (Upper Jurassic) of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Wyoming. Ichnos, v. 11, p. 151-156. *Principle investigator
  • Schweitzer, C. E., K. J. Lacovara, J. B. Smith, M. C. Lamanna, M. A. Lyon, and Y. Attia, 2003, Mangrove-dwelling crabs (Decapoda: Brachyura: Necrocarcinidae) associated with dinosaurs from the Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian) of Egypt, Journal of Paleontology, v. 77, p. 888-894.
  • Lacovara, K.J., Smith, J.R., Smith, J.B., and Lamanna, M.C., 2003, The Ten Thousand Islands coast of Florida: A modern analog to low-energy mangrove coasts of Cretaceous epeiric seas, in R. A. Davis, J., ed., Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Coastal Sediments: Clearwater Beach, Florida, p. 1773-1784.
  • Smith, J.B., M. C. Lamanna, K. J. Lacovara, P. Dodson, J. R. Smith, J. C. Poole, R. Giegengack, and Y. Attia, 2001, A Giant Sauropod Dinosaur from an Upper Cretaceous Mangrove Deposit in Egypt, Science, June 1, 2001: 1704-1706.