Dr Javier Ortega-Hernández

Photo of Dr Javier Ortega-Hernández

Biol. (UNAM), MSc (Brist), PhD (Cantab)



Javier received his first degree in Biology from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and then moved to the UK to complete the MSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol. In 2009 he came to Cambridge (Darwin College) to pursue a PhD in Earth Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Nicholas Butterfield, and in October 2013 became a Research Fellow at Emmanuel College and the Department of Earth Sciences. Javier is currently affiliated with the Department of Zoology as a Herchel Smith Fellow in Biological Sciences.


Javier’s research focuses on the palaeobiology and evolution of some of the earliest known animals, particularly those that inhabited the Earth during the event known as the “Cambrian Explosion” approximately 530 million years ago. His main expertise encompasses the classification, morphology and phylogeny of arthropods and their close relatives, as their staggering abundance and ecological success make them excellent study subjects for understanding the rise of complex animal life.

Ongoing research projects include the study of recently discovered Konservat-Lagerstätten (sites of exceptional preservation) from the lower Palaeozoic of North America and China, the use of morphological landmarks for understanding development in fossil organisms, and the complex evolutionary integration of phylogeny, morphology and ecology in extinct arthropods.

For additional information and a complete list of publications (including downloadable PDF's) please follow these links:

Selected Media Coverage:

  • Cambridge TV: Interview on fossilized nervous system in a Cambrian arthropod.
  • The Washington Post: Exquisitely detailed 520 million year old fossil shows individual nerves.
  • The New York Times: The Cambrian Explosion's strange-looking poster child.
  • Motherboard: Ancient fossil brain gives clues on how arthropods of today got heads.
  • The Guardian: Roll up… the first animal that curled into a ball to take cover.
  • The Huffington Post: Arthropod fossils show limbs of ‘fuxianhuiid’, 520-million-year-old sea creature.
  • Live Science: Weirdest worm ever? Clawed creature finds its family tree.

Selected Publications: