Professor of Paleontology

Contact Information

Office:   Traphagen Hall #207-207A
Phone:  (406) 994-6907

Office Hours:

Fall 2018: Tues, Wed, Thurs, 10:00-12:00pm


B.S., Cornell University, 1984
M.S., University of Georgia, 1989
Ph.D., Montana State University, 1995

Paleontology Website
International Research Experience for Students
Dr. Varricchio featured in MSU University News
Interview with Dr. Varricchio about his research

Research Interests

My research focuses on the biology of dinosaurs and largely involves theropods (the group of primarily carnivorous dinosaurs that includes birds) from the Cretaceous of Montana and abroad (China, Africa, Argentina). Where possible, I try to blend anatomic and geologic data within a broader evolutionary context. Currently, I have three main areas of research: taphonomic studies, the dinosaur Troodon, and dinosaur reproduction, particularly the theropod-bird lineage. Ongoing taphonomic studies include 1) the description of a novel ornithomimid bonebed from Inner Mongolia with Paul Sereno (U. Chicago); 2) a study of small theropod taphonomy in the Two Medicine Formation of Montana; and 3), as part of a team of researchers, the re-evaluation of a Maiasaura bonebed using detailed palynologic and geochemical sampling. Several Troodon-related projects continue in an attempt to formulate as complete a picture of a single dinosaur species as possible. Having finished work on Troodon nests, eggs, and embryos, in progress work on this dinosaur includes ontogenetic and osteologic description, re-examination of growth using bone histology with Greg Erickson (Florida State U.), and the documentation of pathologies with Rebecca Hanna (Choteau, MT). The last project still in its incipient stage entails the documentation of reproductive features within the theropod-bird lineage and across the K/T boundary.

Current Graduate Students

Thomas Evans
Ashley Fergusen
L.J. Krumenacker
Darrin Strosnider
Kelli Sutherland

Josh Bonde (M.S. 2008)
Frankie Jackson (Ph.D. 2007)
Robert Kambic (M.S. 2008)
Ben Scherzer (M.S. 2008)
Ewan Wolff (Ph.D. 2007)

Selected Publications

Varricchio, D.J., Raven, R.F., Wolbach, W., Elsik, W.C., and Witzke, B.J.  2009.  Soot and Palynologic Analysis of Manson Impact-Related Strata (Upper Cretaceous) of Iowa and South Dakota, USA.  Cretaceous Research 30:127-134.

Varricchio, D.J., Moore, J.R., Erickson, G.M., Norell, M.A., Jackson, F.D., Borkowski, J.J.  2008.  Avian paternal care had dinosaur origin.  Science 322:1826-1828.  Abstract 

Varricchio, D.J., Sereno, P.C., Zhao, X., Tan. L., Wilson, J.A., and Lyon, G.H.  2008.  Mud-Trapped Herd Captures Evidence of Distinctive Dinosaur Sociality.  Acta Paleontologica Polonica 53(4):567-578. 

Weishampel, D.B., Fastovskyy. D.E., Watabe, M., Varricchio, D.J., Jackson, F., Tsogtbaatar, K., and Barsbold, R.  2008.  New oviraptorid embryos from Bugin-Tsav, Nemegt Formation (Upper Cretaceous), Mongolia with insights into their habitat and growth.  Jornal of Vertebrate Paleontology 28:1110-1119.

Sereno, P.C., Martinez, R.N., Wilson, J.A., Varricchio, D.J., Alcober, O.A., and Larsson, H.C.E.  2008.  Evidence for avian intrathoracic air sacs in a new predatory dinosaur from Argentina.  PLoS ONE 3(9):e3303. doi:10.1371/jounal.pone.0003303

Jackson, F.D., Jin, X., Varricchio, D.J., Azuma, Y., and Jiang, Y.  2008.  The first in situ turtle clutch from the Vretaceous Tiantai Basin, Zhejiang Province, China.  Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 28:319-325.

Jackson, F.D., Varricchio, D.J., Jackson, R., Vila, B., and Chiappe, L.  2008.  Water vapor conductance of a titanosaur egg (Megaloolithus patagonicus) from Argentina: comparison with a Megaloolithus siruguei egg from Spain.  Paleobiology 34:229-246.

Bonde, J.W., Varricchio, D.J., Jackson, F.D., Loope, D.B., and Shirk, A.M.  2008.  Dinosaurs and dunes! Sedimentology and paleontology of the Mesozoic in the Valley of Fire State Park.

Huang, T.D., Varrichhio, D.J., Ji, X., Lee, T., and Sommerlade, E.  2007.  A simple and quick non-contact method to digitize three-dimensional fossils for paleontological and archaeological applications.  Yunnan Geology 26(4):373-386.

Erickson, G.M., Curry Rogers, K., Varricchio, D.J., Norell, M.A., and Xu. X.  2007.  Growth patterns in brooding dinosaurs reveals the timing of sexual maturity in non-avian dinosaurs and genesis of the avian condition.  Biology Letters 3:558-561.

Varricchio, D.J., Martin, A., and Katsura, Y.  2007.  First trace and body fossil evidence of a burrowing, denning dinosaur.  Proceedings Royal Society, B 274:1361-1368.

Jin, X., Azuma, Y., Jackson, F., and Varricchio, D.J.  2007.  Giant dinosaur eggs from the Tiantai basin, Zhejiang Province, China.  Canadian Jornal of Earth Sciences 44:81-88.

Varricchio, D. J. 2005. Bringing up baby. Natural History 114 (4):30-32, 67.

Varricchio, D.J. and Jackson, F. D. 2005 (2003). Origins of avian reproduction: answers and questions from dinosaurs. Palaeovertebrata 32(2-4):149-170.

Varricchio, D.J. and Jackson, F. 2004. Cladistic analysis of eggshell characters: a phylogenic assessment of prismatic dinosaur eggs from the Cretaceous Two Medicine Formation of Montana. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 24:931-937.

Meng, Q., Liu, J., Varricchio, D. J., Huang, T., and Gao, C. 2004. Parental care in an ornithischian dinosaur. Nature 431:145-146.

Varricchio, D. J. and Jackson, F. 2004. Two eggs sunny-side up: reproductive physiology in the dinosaur Troodon formosus. pp. 215-233. In P. J. Currie, E. B. Koppelhus, M. A. Shugar, and J. L. Wright (eds.), Feathered Dragons: Studies on the Transition from Dinosaurs to Birds, Indiana University Press.

Currie, P. J. and Varricchio, D. J. 2004. A new dromaeosaurid from the Horseshoe Canyon Formation (Upper Cretaceous) of Alberta, Canada, pp. 112-132. In P. J. Currie, E. B. Koppelhus, M. A. Shugar, and J. L. Wright (eds.), Feathered Dragons: Studies on the Transition from Dinosaurs to Birds, Indiana University Press.

Jackson, F. and Varricchio, D.J. 2003. Abnormal, multilayered eggshell in birds: implications for dinosaur reproductive anatomy? Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 23:699-702.

Varricchio, D. J., Horner, J. R., and Jackson, F. 2002. Embryos and eggs for the Cretaceous theropod dinosaur Troodon formosus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22:564-576.

Varricchio, D. J. 2002. A new bird from the Upper Cretaceous Two Medicine Formation of Montana. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 39:19-26.

Varricchio, D. J. 2001. Gut contents for a Cretaceous tyrannosaur: implications for theropod dinosaur digestive tracts. Journal of Paleontology 75(2):401-406.

Varricchio, D. J. 2001. Late Cretaceous Oviraptorosaur (Theropoda) Dinosaurs of Montana, pp. 42- 57. In D. Tanke and K. Carpenter (eds). Mesozoic Vertebrate Life. Indiana University Press.

Varricchio, D.J. 2000. Reproduction and Parenting, pp. 279-293. In G. Paul (ed.), The Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs. St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Varricchio, D. J., Jackson, F. and Trueman, C. N. 1999. A nesting trace with eggs for the Cretaceous theropod dinosaur Troodon formosus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 19(1):91-100.

Sereno, P. C., Beck, A. L., Dutheil, D. B., Gado, B., Larsson, H. C. E., Lyon, G. H., Marcot, J. D., Rauhut, O. W.M., Sadlier, R. W., Sidor, C. A., Varricchio, D. J., Wilson, G. P. and Wilson, J. A. 1998. A long-snouted predatory dinosaur from Africa and the Evolution of Spinosaurids. Science 282 (5392):1298-1302.

Varricchio, D. J., Jackson, F., Borkowski, J. and Horner, J. R. 1997. Nest and egg clutches of the dinosaur Troodon formosus and the evolution of avian reproductive traits. Nature 385:247-250.

Varricchio, D.J. 1997. Troodontidae, pp.749-754. In: P.J. Currie and K. Padian (eds.), Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs. Academic Press, San Diego.

Varricchio, D. J. 1995. Taphonomy of Jack's Birthday Site, a diverse dinosaur bone bed from the Upper Cretaceous Two Medicine Formation of Montana. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 114:297-323.

Varricchio, D. J. 1993. Bone microstructure of the Upper Cretaceous theropod dinosaur Troodon formosus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 13(1):99-104.

Varricchio, D. J. and Horner, J. R. 1993. Hadrosaurid and lambeosaurid bone beds from the Upper Cretaceous Two Medicine Formation of Montana: Taphonomic and biological implications. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 30:997-1006.