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Ryan C. McKellar

Curator of Palaeontology

2340 Albert Street
Ph: 306-787-2826


Research Interests
Research Projects
Prospective Graduate Students
Peer-reviewed Publications

Research Interests

Although I have broad interests in palaeontology, my current research is focused primarily on amber inclusions and composition. I have adopted a three-pronged approach to the study of amber, examining amber inclusions, the chemical signatures of resins and ambers, and the stable isotopic composition of carbon and hydrogen within amber. Together, these three aspects allow us to observe palaeoforests and their inhabitants through time, and infer the ecological conditions that were present at the time of resin production. Amber deposits in western Canada offer a particularly important glimpse of insect evolution in the Late Cretaceous, when many of the groups that characterize modern ecosystems were rising to a position of prominence alongside flowering plants, and transitioning across the end-Cretaceous extinction event.

Research Projects

Palaeoentomology of Cretaceous ambers 
In general, I am interested in Mesozoic and Cenozoic fossil insects, with particular emphasis on the diversity of parasitoid wasp families. In addition to examining insect relationships and diversity through time, studying amber provides a unique opportunity to observe snapshots of past insect communities and behaviours preserved in exquisite detail. Research on small amber inclusions permits work on a range of insect orders, palaeobotanical remains, and even vertebrate remains, such as feather fragments. Preservation in amber also provides opportunities to examine insect taphonomy and the preservation of colour in the fossil record.

Amber and plant resins as sources of palaeoecological and palaeobotanical information 
As part of my research program, I utilize resin and amber stable isotope composition (C and H), and Fourier-transform Infrared spectroscopy in conjunction with the work on inclusions, in order to examine palaeoforests through time. This research allows us to ‘fingerprint’ different amber deposits and examine changes in forest communities, as well as terrestrial conditions in the fossil record. Some of the more interesting applications of this research have included collaborative investigations into the role that insect attacks play in the formation of amber deposits, and variations in prehistoric oxygen levels as recorded by amber composition. Ultimately, this type of research offers additional palaeoecological data for a range of fossil deposits and bonebeds that contain amber or plant remains.

Systematics of Devonian trilobites
I maintain an active research interest in Devonian trilobites that centers around members of the family Phacopidae and their close relatives. Beyond trilobite systematics, I am interested in trilobite-based biostratigraphy and palaeoecology, as well as larger questions surrounding taphonomy and the fossil record of arthropods in general.

Prospective Graduate Students

If you are interested in amber research or invertebrate palaeontology as a topic for graduate studies, please feel free to contact me in order to discuss potential projects. I am especially interested in projects that involve palaeoentomology, but there are a wide range of palaeontological problems that pique my curiosity. Students that can make good use of Saskatchewan’s resources, and those that are able to secure external funding or scholarships for their research are particularly encouraged to apply. Please contact me via email, with details of your background, interests, and potential project(s), if you are interested in pursuing graduate studies with the invertebrate palaeontology program at the RSM.

I am currently seeking a student to reconstruct insect life in the Paleocene, as part of an NSERC-funded graduate student position (advertisement to the right). If this advertisement is still visible, the position is still available.

Prospective graduate students will need to meet the requirements established by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, and the Biology Department at the University of Regina.


Peer-reviewed Publications

Online content and profiles

Fully updated lists of publications, often with links to available copies of the work, can be found through the following links and profile pages.

Google Scholar


Journal articles (student co-author*)

Alekseev, V.I., Mitchell, J.*, McKellar, R.C., Barbi, M., Larsson, H.C. and Bukejs, A. (2021). The first described turtle beetles from Eocene Baltic amber, with notes on fossil Chelonariidae (Coleoptera: Byrrhoidea). Fossil Record, 24(1): 19–32.

Xing, L., O'Connor, J.K., Niu, K., Cockx, P.*, Mai, H., McKellar, R.C. (2020). A new enantiornithine (Aves) preserved in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber contributes to growing diversity of Cretaceous plumage patterns. Frontiers in Earth Science, 8: 1–11.

Xing, L., Cockx, P.*, McKellar, R.C. (2020). Disassociated feathers in Burmese amber shed new light on mid-Cretaceous dinosaurs and avifauna. Gondwana Research, 82: 241–253.

Cockx, P.*, McKellar, R.C., Tappert, R., Vavrek, M., Muehlenbachs, K. (2020). Bonebed amber as a new source of paleontological data: the case of the Pipestone Creek deposit (Upper Cretaceous), Alberta, Canada. Gondwana Research, 81: 378–389.

Xing, L., Cockx, P.*, O’Connor, J.K., McKellar, R.C. (2020). A newly discovered enantiornithine foot preserved in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Palaeoentomology, 3: 212–219.

Xing, L., O’Connor, J.K., Schmitz, L., Chiappe, L.M., McKellar, R.C., Yi, Q., Li, G. (2020). Hummingbird-sized dinosaur from the Cretaceous period of Myanmar. Nature, 579(7798): 245–249.

Xing, L., O’Connor, J.K., Schmitz, L., Chiappe, L.M., McKellar, R.C., Yi, Q., Li, G. (2020). Retraction note: hummingbird-sized dinosaur from the Cretaceous period of Myanmar. Nature, 585.

Xing L., McKellar, R.C., O'Connor, J.K. (2020). An unusually large bird wing in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Cretaceous Research, 110: 104412.

Chatterton, B.D., Gibb, S., McKellar, R.C. (2020). Species of the Devonian aulacopleurid trilobite Cyphaspides from southeastern Morocco. Journal of Paleontology, 94: 99–114.

Haug, J.T., Azar, D., Ross, A.J., Szwedo, J., Wang, B., et al. (2020). Comment on the letter of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) dated April 21, 2020 regarding “Fossils from conflict zones and reproducibility of fossil-based scientific data”: Myanmar amber. Paläontologische Zeitschrift, 94: Doi: 10.1007/s12542-020-00524-9.

Haug, C., Reumer, J.W., Haug, J.T., Arillo, A., Audo, D., et al., (2020). Comment on the letter of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) dated April 21, 2020 regarding “Fossils from conflict zones and reproducibility of fossil-based scientific data”: the importance of private collections. Paläontologische Zeitschrift, 94: Doi: 10.1007/s12542-020-00522-x.

Bukejs, A., Bezděk, J., Alekseev, V.I., Kairišs, K., McKellar, R.C. (2020). Description of the male of fossil Calomicrus eocenicus Bukejs et Bezděk (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae) from Eocene Baltic amber using X-ray microtomography. Fossil Record, 23(1): 105–115.

Alekseev, V.I., Bukejs, A., McKellar, R.C. (2019). The second fossil species of Cathartosilvanus (Coleoptera: Cucujoidea: Silvanidae) from Eocene Baltic amber. Fossil Record, 22: 111–118.

McKellar, R.C., Jones, E.*, Engel, M.S., Tappert, R., Wolfe, A.P., Muehlenbachs, K., Cockx, P.*, Koppelhus, E.B., Currie, P.J. (2019). A direct association between amber and dinosaur remains provides paleoecological insights. Scientific Reports, 9: 1–7.

Xing, L., McKellar, R.C., O’Connor, J.K., Niu, K., Mai, H. (2019). A mid-Cretaceous enantiornithine foot and tail feather preserved in Burmese amber. Scientific Reports, 9: 1–8.

Alekseev, V.I., Bukejs, A., Cooper, D.M.L., King, G.A.*, McKellar, R.C. (2019). A new species of Airaphilus Redtenbacher and new record of fossil Silvanidae (Coleoptera) from Eocene Baltic amber of the Sambian Peninsula. Baltic Journal of Coleopterology, 19: 127–134.

Xing, L., Wang, D., Li, G., McKellar, R.C., Bai, M., Chen, H., Evans, S.E. (2019). Possible egg masses from amphibians, gastropods, and insects in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Historical Biology: 1–11.

Xing, L., O'Connor, J.K., Chiappe, L.M., McKellar, R.C., Carroll N.*, Lei, F., Fang, J., Bai, M. (2019). A new enantiornithine (Aves: Ornithothoraces) with unusual pedal proportions found in amber. Current Biology, 29: 2396–2401. Doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.05.077.

Bukejs, A., Fanti, F., McKellar, R.C. (2019). A new species of Cacomorphocerus Schaufuss, 1892 (Coleoptera: Cantharidae) from Baltic amber with a key to known species. Palaeontologia Electronica, 22.2.28A: 1–7. Doi: 10.26879/903.

Xing, L., McKellar, R.C., O’Connor, J.K., Bai, M., Tseng, K., Chiappe, L.M. (2019). A fully feathered enantiornithine foot and wing fragment preserved in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Scientific Reports, 9(1): 927. Doi:10.1038/s41598-018-37427-4.

Xing, L., Ross, A.J., Stilwell, J.D., Fang, J., McKellar, R.C. (2019). Juvenile snail with preserved soft tissue in mid-Cretaceous amber from Myanmar suggests a cyclophoroidean (Gastropoda) ancestry. Cretaceous Research, 93:114–119.

Bukejs, A., Alekseev, V.I., Cooper, D.M., King, G.A.*, McKellar, R.C. (2019). A new fossil species of Pycnomerus Erichson (Coleoptera: Zopheridae) from Baltic amber, and a replacement name for a Recent North American congener. Zootaxa, 4550(4): 565–572

Xing, L., McKellar, R.C., Gao, Z. (2018). Cretaceous hitchhikers: a possible phoretic association between a pseudoscorpion and bird in Burmese amber. Acta Geologica Sinica (English Ed.) 92: 2434–2435.

Xing, L., Cockx, P.*, McKellar, R.C., O’Connor, J., (2018). Ornamental feathers in Cretaceous Burmese amber: resolving the enigma of rachis-dominated feather structure. Journal of Palaeogeography, 7: 13. Doi: 10.1186/s42501-018-0014-2.

Kolaceke, A.*, McKellar, R.C., Barbi, M. (2018). A non-destructive technique for chemical mapping of insect inclusions in amber. PalZ, 92(4): 733-741. Doi:10.1007/s12542-018-0412-x.

Gonzalez-Arsimendi, G.*, McKellar, R.C., Tappert, R., Wolfe, A.P., Muehlenbachs, K. (2018). Deuterium exchangeability in modern and fossil plant resins. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 239: 39 159–172.

Mänd, K.*, Muehlenbachs, K., McKellar, R.C., Wolfe, A.P., Konhauser, K. (2018). Distinct origins for Rovno and Baltic ambers: evidence from carbon and hydrogen stable isotopes. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 505: 265–273.

Xing, L., Caldwell, M.W., Chen, R., Nydam, R.L., Palci, A., Simões, T.R., McKellar, R.C., Lee, M.S., Liu, Y., Shi, H., Wang, K. (2018). A mid-Cretaceous embryonic-to-neonate snake in amber from Myanmar. Science Advances, 4(7): p.eaat5042.

Cockx, P.F.*, McKellar, R.C. (2018). A new genus and species of the subfamily Pemphredoninae (Hymenoptera: Crabronidae) in Upper Cretaceous amber from Myanmar. Comptes Rendus Palevol, 17: 153–157.

Xing, L., O'Connor, J.K., McKellar, R.C., Chiappe, L.M., Bai, M., Tseng, K., Zhang, J., Yang, H., Fang, J., Li, G. (2018). A flattened enantiornithine in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber: morphology and preservation. Science Bulletin, 63: 235–243.

Xing, L., Sames, B., McKellar, R.C., Xi, D., Bai, M., Wan, X. (2018). A gigantic marine ostracod (Crustacea: Myodocopa) trapped in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Scientific Reports, 8(1): 1365.

Bukejs, A., Alekseev, V.I., Cooper, D.M., King, G.A.*, McKellar, R.C. (2017). Contributions to the palaeofauna of Ptinidae (Coleoptera) known from Baltic amber. Zootaxa, 4344(1): 181–188.

Xing, L., O’Connor, J.K., McKellar, R.C., Chiappe, L.M., Tseng, K., Li, G., Bai, M. (2017). Mid-Cretaceous enantiornithine (Aves) hatchling preserved in Burmese amber: osteology and plumage within the first weeks of life. Gondwana Research 49: 264–277.

Xing, L., McKellar, R.C., Xu, X., Li, G., Bai, M., Persons, W.S., Miyashita, T., Benton, M.J., Zhang, J., Wolfe, A.P., Yi, Q. (2017). Response to: Phylogenetic placement, developmental trajectories and evolutionary implications of a feathered dinosaur tail in Mid-Cretaceous amber. Current Biology, 27: R216–R217.

Cockx, P.F.D.*, McKellar, R.C., Perrichot, V. (2016). First records of the subfamilies Bethylinae (Hymenoptera: Bethylidae) and Cleptinae (Hymenoptera: Chrysididae) in Upper Cretaceous amber from France. Cretaceous Research 68: 1–8.

Xing, L., McKellar, R.C., Xu, X., Li, G., Bai, M., Persons, W.S., Miyashita, T., Benton, M.J., Zhang, J., Wolfe, A.P., Yi, Q., Tseng, K., Ran, H., Currie, P.J. (2016). A feathered dinosaur tail trapped in mid-Cretaceous amber. Current Biology 26: 3352–3360.

Cockx, P.F.D. *, McKellar, R.C. (2016). First record of the family Scolebythidae (Hymenoptera) in mid-Cretaceous amber from Myanmar. Cretaceous Research 67: 133–139.

Bukejs, A., Alekseev, V.I., McKellar, R.C. (2016). Passandra septentrionaria sp. nov.: the first described species of Passandridae (Coleoptera: Cucujoidea) from Eocene Baltic amber. Zootaxa 4144 (1): 117

Xing, L., McKellar, R.C., Wang, M., Bai, M., Benton, M.J., Zhang, J., Wang, Y., Tseng, K., Lockley, M.G., Li, G., Ran, H., Zhang, W., Xu, X. (2016). Mummified precocial bird wings in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Nature Communications 7:12089, 1–7.


Wolfe, A.P., McKellar, R.C., Tappert, R., Sodhi, R.N.S., and Muehlenbachs, K. (2016). Bitterfeld amber is not Baltic amber: three geochemical tests and new constraints on the botanical affinities of succinite. Review of Palynology and Palaeobotany 225: 21–32.

McKellar, R.C., and Engel, M.S. (2014). New bethylid and chrysidid wasps (Hymenoptera: Chrysidoidea) from Canadian Late Cretaceous amber. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 88: 433–451.

Davies, L.J.*, McKellar, R.C., Muehlenbachs, K., Wolfe, A.P. (2014). Isotopic characterization of organic matter from the Danek Bonebed (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) with special reference to amber. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 51: 1017–1022.

McKellar, R.C., and Engel, M.S. (2014). The first Mesozoic Leptopodidae (Hemiptera: Leptopodomorpha) from Canadian Late Cretaceous amber. Historical Biology 26: 702–709.

Ortega-Blanco, J., McKellar, R.C., and Engel, M.S. (2014). Diverse scelionid wasps from Early Cretaceous Álava amber, Spain (Hymenoptera: Platygastroidea). Bulletin of Geosciences 89: 553–571.

Engel, M.S., Ortega-Blanco, J., and McKellar, R.C. (2013). New scolebythid wasps in Cretaceous amber from Spain and Canada, with implications for the phylogeny of the family (Hymenoptera: Scolebythidae). Cretaceous Research 46: 31–42.

McKellar, R.C., Glasier, J.R.N., and Engel, M.S. (2013). New ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Dolichoderinae) from Canadian Late Cretaceous Amber. Bulletin of Geosciences 88: 583–594.

McKellar, R.C., Glasier, J.R.N., and Engel, M.S. (2013). A new trap-jawed ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Haidomyrmecini) from Canadian Late Cretaceous Amber. The Canadian Entomologist 145(4): 454–465. [Selected as “The Editor’s Pick”.]

McKellar, R.C., Kopylov, D.S., and Engel, M.S. (2013). Ichneumonidae (Insecta: Hymenoptera) in Canadian Late Cretaceous amber. Fossil Record 16(2): 217–227.

Tappert, R., McKellar, R.C., Wolfe, A.P., Tappert, M.C., Ortega-Blanco, J., and Muehlenbachs, K. (2013). Stable carbon isotopes of resin exudates record responses of C3 plants to changes in atmospheric oxygen since the Triassic. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 121: 240–262.

Engel, M.S., McKellar, R.C., and Ortega-Blanco, J. (2013). Introducing Novitates Paleoentomologicae: an outlet for occasional fossil insect research at the University of Kansas. Novitates Paleoentomologicae 1: 1–5.

McKellar, R.C., Chatterton, B.D.E., Meinhold, G., and Ben Rahuma, M.M. (2012). An unusual occurrence of Pedinopariops (Trilobita: Phacopidae) within siliciclastic facies in the Devonian of Awaynat Wanin, Libya. Bulletin of Geosciences 87(2): 219–225.

McKellar, R.C. and Engel, M.S. (2012) Hymenoptera in Canadian Cretaceous amber (Insecta). Cretaceous Research 35: 258–279.

McKellar, R.C., Chatterton, B.D.E., Wolfe, A.P., and Currie, P.J. (2012) Response to Comment on “A diverse assemblage of Late Cretaceous dinosaur and bird feathers from Canadian amber”. Science 335: 796. [Full technical response was published online].

Engel, M.S., McKellar, R.C., Gibb, S., and Chatterton, B.D.E. (2012) A new Cenomanian-Turonian (Late Cretaceous) insect assemblage from southeastern Morocco. Cretaceous Research 35: 88–93.

Wolfe, A.P., Csank, A.Z., Reyes, A.V., McKellar, R.C., Tappert, R., and Muehlenbachs, K. (2012) Pristine Early Eocene wood buried deeply in kimberlite from Northern Canada. PLoS One 7(9): 1–8 (e45537).

McKellar, R.C., Chatterton, B.D.E., Wolfe, A.P., and Currie, P.J. (2011) A diverse assemblage of Late Cretaceous dinosaur and bird feathers from Canadian amber. Science 333: 1619–1622.

Perrichot, V., Ortega-Blanco, J., McKellar, R.C., Delclòs, X., Azar, D., Nel, A., Tafforeau, P., and Engel, M.S. (2011). New and revised maimetshid wasps from Cretaceous ambers (Hymenoptera, Maimetshidae). ZooKeys 130: 421–453.

McKellar, R.C. and Engel, M.S. (2011) First Mesozoic Microphysidae (Hemiptera): a new genus and species in Late Cretaceous amber from Canada. The Canadian Entomologist 143(4): 349–357.

McKellar, R.C. and Engel, M.S. (2011) The serphitid wasps (Hymenoptera: Proctotrupomorpha) of Canadian Cretaceous amber. Systematic Entomology 36(1): 192–208.

McKellar, R.C., Wolfe, A.P., Muehlenbachs, K., Tappert, R., Engel, M.S., Cheng, T., and Sánchez-Azofeifa, G.A. (2011) Insect outbreaks produce distinctive carbon isotope signatures in defensive resins and fossiliferous ambers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 1722: 3219–3224.

McKellar, R.C. and Engel, M.S. (2011) New Stigmaphronidae and Megaspilidae (Hymenoptera: Ceraphronoidea) from Canadian Cretaceous amber. Cretaceous Research 32(6): 794–805.

Tappert, R., Wolfe, A.P., McKellar, R.C., Tappert, M., and Muehlenbachs, K. (2011) Characterizing modern and fossil exudates of gymnosperms using micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. International Journal of Plant Sciences 172(1): 120–138.

Wolfe, A.P., Tappert, R., Muehlenbachs, K., Boudreau, M., McKellar, R.C., Basinger, J.F. and Garrett, A. (2009) A new proposal concerning the origin of Baltic amber. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 276: 3403–3412.

McKellar, R.C. and Engel, M.S. (2009) A New Thorny Lacewing (Neuroptera: Rhachiberothidae) from Canadian Cretaceous Amber. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 82(2): 114–121.

McKellar, R.C., Wolfe, A.P., Tappert, R., and Muehlenbachs, K. (2008) Correlation of Grassy Lake and Cedar Lake ambers using infrared spectroscopy, stable isotopes, and palaeoentomology. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 45: 1061–1082.

Books and monographs

McKellar, R.C. and Chatterton, B.D.E. (2009) Early and Middle Devonian Phacopidae (Trilobita) of southern Morocco. Palaeontographica Canadiana 28: 110 pp.

Chatterton, B.D.E., Fortey, R., Brett, K., Gibb, S., and McKellar R. (2006). Trilobites from the upper Lower to Middle Devonian Timrhanrhart Formation, Jebel Gara el Zquilma, southern Morocco. Palaeontographica Canadiana 24: 158 pp.

Contributions to edited volumes

McKellar, R.C., and Wolfe, A.P. (2010) Canadian amber. In: Penney, D. (Ed.) Biodiversity of fossils in amber from the major world deposits. Siri Scientific Press, 149–166.

McKellar, R.C. and Chatterton, B.D.E. (2008) Biostratigraphy and systematics of select Lower and Middle Devonian Phacopidae (Trilobita) from southern Morocco. In: Rabano, I., Gonzalo, R., and Garcia-Bellido, D. (Eds.) Advances in trilobite research. Cuadernos del Museo Geominero 9: 259–264.


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